A new report from some of the world’s top climate scientists sums up what they’ve learned in the past five years. It’s a lot of information, but five points stand out:
There’s good news on future projections of climate change. A combination of factors — including strengthened commitments — has led to a reduction in expected warming by at least a degree from a very high emissions scenario. There’s a lot more work ahead, but this shows that the future is not set in stone. We can make it safer. Now we have to make that progress again and again.
The cost of clean energy technologies has fallen drastically and unexpectedly quickly over the past decade: 85% for solar power, 55% for wind power, and 85% for batteries. These changes mean that clean energy is simply becoming cheaper than dirty energy.
Every bit of avoided warming makes a difference, particularly when it comes to extreme weather. There isn’t a single “cliff” after which additional warming doesn’t matter. What happens in the decades ahead is determined by the choices we make and the actions we take now.
We now need to move as quickly as possible from fossil fuels to clean energy to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. And importantly, fossil fuels should be used less and less for power generation. If used, we would need to capture and safely store the carbon dioxide and considerably reduce emissions of the powerful climate pollutant methane.
Climate action is good for business – in the long run. While the upfront cost of helping countries transition away from fossil fuels are high, specifically-designed policies can help address that challenge and provide a huge economic opportunity. And the value – both economic and human – of avoiding the drastic impacts of a changing climate is enormous. Remember, if this were easy we would have solved it already!
Where do we really stand on climate change? Numbers to know:
Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, because of where they live or the resources they depend on to survive.
The planet has already warmed 1.1°C since pre-industrial times. That leaves the world with just 0.4°C left of warming before it hits 1.5°C – that’s the threshold beyond which scientists say the likelihood of catastrophic climate impacts increases significantly.
The richest 10% of households globally are responsible for between a third to nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, while the poorest 50% of households contribute just 15% of emissions.
The food system, including production, transportation, waste and more, accounts for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Nature - including plants, animals, soils and the oceans - has absorbed 54% of human-related carbon dioxide emissions over the past 10 years. But with continuing emissions that ability decreases, meaning more human-caused emissions will remain in the atmosphere.