IPCC report: graphs detail climate change

Climate change wasn’t caused by a single bad actor, and it won’t be solved by a quick fix. Instead, climate change is caused by one web of issues and is addressed by another web of mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Globally, significant progress has been made to limit greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming, but it has not been enough.

It’s a complicated story and the charts, included in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which was released on Monday, tell the story visually, which can be helpful.

Although the combination of factors and solutions is incremental, the consequences of inaction are both dire and clear.

“We are on the fast track to climate catastrophe: large cities under water. Unprecedented heat waves. Terrifying storms. Widespread water shortages. The extinction of a million plant species and animals. This is neither a fiction nor an exaggeration. This is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Monday in response to the report. .

Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions have increased

Anthropogenic emissions (resulting from human actions) Greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades.

Courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The reason climate change is a problem is that greenhouse gas emissions have increased. Overall, emission reductions due to efficiency have been lower than emission increases due to increased global activity.

In order to limit global warming to around 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, which is the generally accepted target set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, emissions of greenhouse gases must reach their highest peak before 2025, according to the scenarios Analysis of the IPCC. By 2030, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 43%, according to the report compiled by 278 scientists and experts.

This is not where the world is currently heading. “Current climate commitments would mean a 14% increase in emissions,” António Guterres said on Monday. “And most major emitters aren’t taking the steps necessary to deliver on even those inadequate promises.”

However, it is also true that the growth rate of greenhouse gas emissions between 2010 and 2019 was lower than between 2000 and 2009.

Emissions by geography

Regional greenhouse gas emissions.

Courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Most greenhouse gas emissions come from more developed countries and wealthier people.

“Climate change is the result of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles, and consumption and production patterns,” said the co-chair of Working Group III of the IPCC, Jim Skea, in a written statement released with the report. “This report shows how acting now can move us towards a fairer and more sustainable world.”

The cost of renewable energy has fallen

Cost of renewable energy sources and adoption.

Courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The development and scaling up of renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar, have caused prices to plummet in recent decades. Adoption of these technologies has continued to increase.

Even still, the speed of the shift to renewables needs to triple, António Guterres said Monday in response to the report. “In most cases, renewables are already much cheaper,” he said.

The war in Ukraine prompted countries around the world to very quickly limit their dependence on Russian energy. As a result, leaders, including US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, have called for increased domestic oil and gas production to meet wartime demands and to mitigate high gas prices.

The UN secretary-general, however, chastised even a short-term increase in oil and gas production.

“Inflation is rising and the war in Ukraine is causing food and energy prices to skyrocket. But increased fossil fuel production will only make things worse,” António Guterres said on Monday. “Choices made by countries now will make or break the 1.5 degree commitment.”

Current climate action is insufficient

Projected greenhouse gas emissions for various policy approaches.

Courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The current global response to climate change is insufficient.

Even if the nationally determined contributions announced ahead of last year’s COP26 climate conference are implemented, greenhouse gas emissions will not decline enough to limit global warming.

The current trend of implemented policies is in red in the graph above. The light blue and green lines show the greenhouse gas emissions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius and 2° Celsius, respectively. Both of these trend lines lie below the red trend line, which the globe is currently heading towards.

More aggressive cuts will limit warming

Projected average global warming of 8 response scenarios.

Courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The global warming occurring on a global scale (shown on the right) depends on how aggressively emissions are reduced.

A more aggressive policy (C1, the lighter blue color) will result in less warming. A less aggressive emission reduction policy (C8, the dark red color) will cause the most global warming.

Pathways that limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius require immediate action

Mitigation pathways that limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius will require immediate action.

Courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The graph above shows greenhouse gas (GHG), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions under various potential scenarios, what the IPCC calls Illustrative Mitigation Emissions Pathways (IMP).

Red shaded areas show projected emissions trajectories if current policies and commitments are maintained. The blue shaded range shows the emission pathways if more aggressive policies that limit global warming to 1.5°C are implemented.

“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F),” Skea said in a written statement. “Without immediate and deep emission reductions across all sectors, this will be impossible.”

Where do the emissions come from?

Carbon dioxide contributions by sector for several mitigation strategies, some of which include direct carbon capture from the air.

Courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The chart above shows where carbon dioxide emissions come from by sector and a number of possible pathways to net zero.

A cost-benefit analysis of mitigation options

Overview of climate change mitigation options and their estimated cost and potential ranges in 2030

Courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Not all solutions to climate change will have the same impact on emissions. The graph above shows the potential net greenhouse gas emissions avoided for each technology.

Changes in consumer behavior can reduce demand

The potential impact on climate change mitigation impacts of altered demand for food, electricity and manufactured goods by infrastructure and behavioral adaptations.

Courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

One of the key elements of reducing emissions is demand limitation, which the IPCC has divided into three types of change. “Socio-cultural factors” are the behavioral choices that individuals make. “Infrastructure utilization” refers to changes in infrastructure design that allow individuals to make different choices. And “end-use technology adoption” refers to changes in technology adoption by end users.

“Putting the right policies, infrastructure and technologies in place to enable changes in our lifestyles and behaviors can lead to a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential,” said the Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. Priyadarshi Shukla, in a written statement. “Evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve our health and well-being.”

Cities where people can walk from place to place or only travel short distances offer people the opportunity to have a lighter carbon footprint.

In addition, buildings will have to become more efficient. “We see examples of zero-energy or zero-carbon buildings in almost every climate,” Skea said. “Action in this decade is essential to capture the mitigation potential of buildings.”

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