The authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday an updated report, the first major review of its kind since 2013, which shows temperatures on Earth will rise by about 1.5 degrees Celsius in around two decades, adding that a near-2m rise in sea levels by the end of this century “cannot be ruled out.”
The study, which outlines five future scenarios based on how much carbon emissions are cut, sees global warming as having crossed the more stringent of two thresholds set in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
“Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a ‘code red’ for humanity,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
“The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable,” Guterres said. “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet.”
In three scenarios, the world will also likely exceed warming of 2C degrees compared with pre-industrial times with far worse heat waves, droughts and flood-inducing rain storms “unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades,” the report reads.
The report, which comes ahead of the COP26 climate summit in November, also found that since 1970, global surface temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period over the past 2,000 years.
The last time the IPCC, a United Nations body that coordinates research about global warming, had published this report was in 2013. At the time, the experts said humans were the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s. The document paved the way for the Paris climate agreement signed in 2015.
The phrase “very likely” attached to climate disasters appears more than 40 times in the 42-page Summary for Policymakers. In scientific terms, implying 90-100% certainty.
It is still possible to prevent warming going beyond the 1.5C critical level if “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions” in emissions start now, the report reads.
Coal has been a bone of contention in every major climate summit in the past five years, particularly at the all-night meeting of Group of 20 ministers last month in Naples, Italy. The group failed to reach an agreement on phasing out coal power.
Published a day and a half later than expected, the statement only had ministers committing to strengthen their individual climate targets.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged countries to end the use of coal power, the dirtiest fossil fuel, in order to keep the 1.5ºC limit within reach. “We know what must be done to limit global warming— consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline,” he said on Monday in a statement issued by Downing Street.
London-based human rights organization Global Witness called on world leaders and big corporations to wake up to the “undeniable immediacy” of an international climate crisis.
“This report will send shockwaves around the world, but it must do more than just shock. It must be the catalyst to finally see the radical climate action that is needed to avoid disaster,” Amy Richards, Director of Communications at Global Witness said in a statement on Monday.
The advocacy group said that to address the looming crisis, nations must phase out the use of all fossil fuels starting now. It also calls for zero-tolerance legislation to hold big companies liable for the environmental and human rights impacts of their value chains.
“We have less time than we thought, but there is still time to limit the damage and prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis,” Richards said.