Between flood and fire disasters: Climate report urges immediate action

Climate Change

More heatwaves, droughts and heavy rains: Climate change is accelerating and with devastating consequences, according to a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The climate is going crazy, and weather extremes are becoming increasingly common around the world. The recent IPCC report reveals past failures.

The report shows: Climate change is hitting every region on our planet and faster than expected. Never before has an IPCC assessment report been able to draw on such solid research findings. It makes clear that the situation in the climate system continues to deteriorate. The research data on which the report is based show that the world is currently heading for warming of at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100. However, the extent of global warming can still generally be reduced. To do so, however, humans would have to immediately and consistently reduce high levels of emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. In this way, global temperatures could stabilize in 20 to 30 years, and in the best-case scenario, even fall again slightly in the long term. Otherwise, global warming could not be limited to the target set in Paris of 1.5 or even 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times.

The focus must be on CO2 as the primary driver of climate change. To stabilize the climate, humanity must achieve at least net-zero emissions of CO2, the report stated. Additional reductions of other greenhouse gases and air pollutants would also have a positive climate impact. One of the most necessary action items is likely to be the warning that methane plays an increasingly important role in overheating the planet.

Methane reduction as a short-term lever

The carbon-rich gas, derived from livestock, shale gas drilling and poorly managed conventional oil and gas production, warms the world far more effectively than carbon dioxide – it has a “warming potential” more than 80 times that of CO2 – but has a shorter atmospheric lifespan and persists for about a decade before breaking down to CO2.

The report, produced by the UN and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, found that 42% of human-caused methane emissions come from agriculture, primarily from the belching of cattle, their manure, and rice fields. Intentional and unintentional methane leaks from fossil fuel drilling rigs, coal mines and pipelines produce 36% of the total, and landfills cause another 18%.

The report found that fossil fuel operations could achieve feasible and cost-effective methane savings of 60% by stopping the discharge of unwanted gases and properly sealing equipment. Landfills could save about 35% by reducing organic waste sent to landfills and better wastewater treatment. Estimated methane savings from agriculture by 2030 were lower at 25%. Savings from feed and animal husbandry are minimal, but Methane emissions could be significantly reduced by a global dietary change – eating less meat.

A "warning signal" that can no longer be ignored

The IPCC report is described as a warning signal that can no longer be ignored. There is no more room for delay or excuses. Answers would have to be provided at the World Climate Conference in Glasgow in November. Only if we act now will the extent of climate change and its consequences remain realistically manageable. To achieve this, a whole “range of measures” is needed: heating buildings CO2-free, video conferencing instead of travel, strengthening public transport and electromobility, restraint in eating meat, less flying and of course many other measures. Conversely, this means that all sectors and we as private individuals can and must make a contribution to reducing emissions and slowing down change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.