The third and final installment of the sixth UN IPCC report shows that while the climate crisis is dire, “we already have the solutions — the only thing preventing us from taking advantage of them is political will and status-quo interests in fossil fuels,” according to CNN.
It shows how renewable energy like solar and wind “are now economically viable and becoming cheaper by the day.” CNN continues, “But while the focus on solutions give the report an optimistic tone, it also serves as a reminder of how policies lag far behind science, technology and even economics.” This was underscored by UN Secretary General António Guterres called the report “a litany of broken promises” and “a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world.”
Here are five key takeaways:
1. Wind and solar are now economically viable replacements for fossil fuels – “The cost of wind and solar energy have dropped dramatically in the past decade and are now competitive with coal and gas for electricity, the report shows. In some contexts, these renewable sources of energy are even cheaper than fossil fuels.
“A recent report by climate think tank Ember showed the world generated a record-setting 10% of its energy from wind and solar 2021. The International Energy Agency said in a recent report that renewable energy capacity will grow by more than 60% by 2026, from 2020 levels.”
2. We need to ditch fossil fuels — and fast – “To limit warming to 1.5 degrees, or even 2 degrees, the world’s energy systems must rapidly decarbonize, the report’s authors say. Ending fossil fuel subsidies could also reduce emissions by up to 10% by 2030.” According to Jan Christoph Minx, a climate researcher and a lead author on the report, “The big message coming from here is we need to end the age of fossil fuel. And we don’t only need to end it, but we need to end it very quickly.”
3. We’re going to have to suck CO2 out of the air – “Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) can be achieved by planting trees and restoring forests and grasslands, but scientist say we must think beyond that. Some critical forests, because of human activity, are already transitioning from absorbing carbon dioxide to emitting it….Some companies are developing machines that essentially act as giant vacuums, pulling carbon dioxide out of the air, but so far these technologies operate at a very small scale.”
4. Slashing methane is a quick way to turn down the heat – “The bulk of human-induced climate change comes from carbon dioxide, but methane makes up around 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the second-biggest contributor to climate change. The gas has more than 80 times the warming power of CO2 in the short term” and the previous IPCC report found that “slashing methane emissions was one of the fastest ways to turn down the heat.”
“Methane emissions can come from leaky oil, gas and coal infrastructure and mines. They also come from landfill and agricultural practices — and yes, even from flatulent cows.”
5. Individuals could play an important role — but only with political support – “While individual choices and tracking your ‘carbon footprint’ have been popular ways for people to respond to the crisis, there is a growing understanding that real change must come from reducing the availability of fossil fuels, not just the demand. “The way consumer choices are presented needs to shift dramatically, the report says, because it could help individuals adopt low carbon-intensive lifestyles — plant-based diets, food-waste reduction and renewable energy options, for example — without ultimately pinning all the onus on them. Without support for these changes, the impact of individual action will be modest, the report shows.
People either “don’t have the technologies available or they can’t afford them,” according to Jo House, a climate researcher and lead author on the report. “So part of this is about the architecture of choices, about making choices available to people, so that they can take the decisions that they want to take, but in a sustainable and affordable way.”
6. The rich world’s financial contributions are falling short – “The rate of climate finance — money that rich countries promised to provide developing countries to address the crisis — has slowed down, according to the report, while the financing of fossil fuels remains high. Although climate finance policies have increased over the past several years, the report found wealthy nations must increase the flow of money to low-income nations beyond the existing $100 billion-a-year, promised under international climate agreements.”