IPCC warns: Window to deliver ‘sustainable, livable future for all’ is closing

The world's top climate scientists have called for the "mainstreaming" of climate action across society, warning the window for securing a livable, sustainable future is rapidly closing despite there being "multiple, feasible and effective" solutions available to stave off dangerous levels of global warming.

The latest report from the scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), approved by governments last weekend, warns the sluggish embrace of proven low-carbon technologies and business models over the past decade means steeper emissions cuts will be required than previously anticipated to avert a future dominated by potentially catastrophic heatwaves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones.

Global temperatures have risen to 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels after more than a century of burning fossil fuels and current policies are expected to lead to global warming of 2.8 degrees C by 2100, the report warns.

As such, the world is on track to massively overshoot both the 1.5 degrees C warming goal and the "well below" 2 degrees C limit governments agreed to under the 2015 Paris Agreement, with scientists warning ecosystems are being subjected to irreversible damage and human civilization is already facing unprecedented temperatures.

The latest report focuses heavily on the importance of preparing societies around the world for increasingly dangerous climate impacts that are unavoidable. More frequent and intense weather events are already evident today in every region and will escalate with every increment of warming, hitting vulnerable communities and ecosystems hardest, the report warns.

Reiterating calls set out in previous IPCC reports, the coalition of global scientists warned all sectors of the economy must undergo "rapid and far-reaching transitions" that involve deep reductions in carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions will need to be cut by 43 percent by 2030 and 60 percent by 2035 if they are to be kept under the critical 1.5 degrees C limit. Global emissions rose again last year and are not expected to peak until 2025 at the earliest.

The latest report focuses heavily on the importance of preparing societies around the world for increasingly dangerous climate impacts that are unavoidable.

"Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits," said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. "This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a livable sustainable future for all."

The analysis concludes the latest series of climate reports published by the IPCC, known as the sixth assessment cycle, which digested scientific research published about climate change since 2015, when the Paris Agreement was signed.

IPCC reports are influential as they are formally endorsed by governments and are used by policymakers to inform their actions and shape United Nations climate negotiations. They are also a valuable tool for businesses looking to understand the escalating material risks rising temperatures pose to their operations and the future direction of climate policymaking.

We have the solutions

A summary of the report was approved early Sunday at a meeting in Inkerland, Switzerland, but agreement on the main text dragged on for several more hours amid a row between rich and developing countries over emissions targets and financial aid.

The report also provides an update on global efforts to curb emissions, with the adoption of low-carbon technologies, shifting patterns of consumption and demand, socio-cultural behavioral changes, enhancements to technological efficiency and a major boost to nature and conservation efforts all singled out as key ways to accelerate decarbonization efforts and enhance citizens' resilience to climate impacts.

The report repeatedly emphasizes that these solutions are not only available, and are in many cases rapidly falling in cost, but can also unlock multiple benefits to society, such as improved public health, enhanced human well-being and the opening up of new employment opportunities.

However, the report also lamented the slow progress in the adoption of low-carbon technologies and business models. It warned that to prove effective and gain social acceptance, low-carbon and climate-resilient development must be informed by diverse values, scientific information and input from local and indigenous communities.

"Transformational changes are more likely to succeed where there is trust, where everyone works together to prioritize risk reduction, and where benefits and burdens are shared equitably," Lee said. "We live in a diverse world in which everyone has different responsibilities and different opportunities to bring about change. Some can do a lot while others will need support to help them manage the change."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the report as a "survival guide for humanity." "It shows the 1.5-degree limit is achievable, but it will take a quantum leap in climate action," he said. "This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once." 

The report stresses that policymakers must focus on climate adaptation measures alongside efforts to reduce their emissions, noting that options to help citizens, infrastructure and ecosystems adjust to new climate realities will only become less effective and more constrained as climate impacts worsen.

"Adaptation options that are feasible and effective today will become constrained and less effective with increasing global warming," the report notes. "With increasing global w

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