Rising temperatures, natural disasters and changes in ecosystems are becoming increasingly life-threatening for people and nature. And that everywhere, in “every region worldwide”. This is how the members of the most important scientific body on climate issues (IPCC) stated in their report on the climate crisis published today. The climate protection achieved so far is “not sufficient” to stop this development .
“Implementing effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce loss and damage to nature and people, but also bring greater benefits,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. The report underlines the urgency of more ambitious measures and shows that a livable, sustainable future for all can still be guaranteed – provided that something is done now.
Climate protection is neglected
The core message is therefore clear: Humans have massively changed the planet in just a few centuries and are responsible for climate change by burning coal, oil and gas. At no time in the past two million years have CO2 concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere been as high as they are today.
The current heat wave in Argentina. In Europe alone, around 20,000 people died last year from the heat wave in August
As a result, the earth has already warmed up by at least 1.1 degrees compared to pre-industrial times. In 2015, in tough negotiations, the heads of state and government agreed on the common goal of ideally limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. So far, no major country is on schedule to achieve this goal.
According to the IPCC, the scenarios for the further development of the climate clearly show that climate change can only be stopped with a radical energy transition. In addition, measures would have to be taken to adapt to the effects of climate change that are already visible today. This will save lives and is even cheaper than the consequential costs of unchecked climate change on the economy and society. In particular, the risks of not meeting the 1.5 degree target are highlighted even more clearly than in previous reports.
“Without immediate, effective and equitable mitigation and adaptation measures, climate change will increasingly threaten ecosystems, biodiversity, livelihoods, health and well-being of present and future generations,” the authors write.
However, according to the scientists, the time window to achieve this is closing quickly. By 2030, the world community would have to almost halve its emissions from the combustion of coal, oil and gas, otherwise there is a risk of significantly higher temperatures.
“A quick and fair phase-out of all fossil fuels and a switch to renewable energies is essential and also holds great potential for sustainable development around the world,” comments Sven Harmeling from the non-governmental organization CARE in a press release.
criticism of the models
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a UN body that analyzes current research on the climate crisis. The experts then jointly evaluate thousands of scientific studies as well as government and industry reports in order to create a comprehensive analysis of the changes and risks posed by climate change. The current report is an overarching summary of the key findings.
The IPCC report is independent. However, the representatives of 195 countries vote on the content of the summary and the recommendations to politicians. The choice of words is often vague as a result.
Even if temperatures could be slightly reduced in the future, island nations like Tuvalu will fall victim to rising sea levels
“The summary is always an indicator of what the countries are currently ready to implement,” says Annika Schroeder, climate expert at the development organization Misereor. For Schroeder, for example, mechanisms for CO2 capture and removal from the atmosphere play a prominent part in climate protection scenarios. Some of the so-called CDR technologies (Carbon Dioxide Removal) are not yet available for the mass market. It is true that the temperature can be partially reduced again with such methods. However, according to the report, damage such as the melting of glaciers, Arctic ice and sea level rise cannot be reversed.
The Federal Environment Agency recently published a report showing that the damage caused by climate change could amount to up to 900 billion euros in Germany alone by 2050. According to Schroeder, these technologies must be invested in and researched. When it comes to climate protection, however, one should not wait until the time has come. “And that is the great danger that now also lies in the reporting of the IPCC report.”
With the prospect of developing mechanisms that can slightly lower temperatures, it might be tempting not to reduce emissions so drastically, adds Matthias Garschagen of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, one of the 93 authors of this synthesis report. However, he advises against it. “It’s not tempting from a risk perspective. It has serious risks. We should really try to avoid that.”
What does 1.5 degrees and more mean?
Every tenth of a degree more or less of global warming makes a difference and could decide on the collapse of entire ecosystems, wash away island states or make coastal regions uninhabitable. For example, global sea level rise by 2100 would be 10 cm less with global warming of 1.5 degrees compared to 2 degrees.
Antarctica would probably only be ice-free in the summer once every century, or once every decade with two degrees of warming. In addition, 99 percent of coral reefs would be lost at two degrees. Heavy rains, which used to occur once a decade, are already 30 percent more likely. However, with a further 3 degrees of warming, they will occur two or even three times per decade and release a third more water.
Droughts that used to occur every decade will leave the soil barren four times a decade. Heat waves, which are already 2.8 times more likely and 1 degree hotter than before the industrial revolution, will be 9.4 times more likely and 5 degrees hotter. “Climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed the least to climate change are disproportionately affected,” said Aditi Mukherji, co-author of the report.
Not helpless – there are enough solutions
There are plenty of ways to reduce greenhouse gases: be it through a diet with less meat, electrification of transport, the conversion of the steel industry to hydrogen, the end of subsidies for fossil fuels, the expansion of public transport or the protection of biodiversity and the woods.
“Massive and parallel measures are now needed to prevent this,” said Tom Mitchell, executive director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). “Whether we like it or not, the only option is solidarity and shared responsibility, in which everyone must play their part.”
It is not only states that are required to limit the climate crisis. The ecological footprint of cities and regions, agriculture and consumer behavior must also be reduced to a minimum. The top priority, however, is the rapid phase-out of coal, oil and gas and the simultaneous electrification of the global energy system, mainly based on wind and solar energy. The cost of renewable energy has fallen by up to 85 percent since 2010.