The world's climate protection goals are in acute danger if the climate-damaging greenhouse gases are not drastically reduced before the end of this decade. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of this in its synthesis report. The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900) is virtually impossible, according to the report. The 1.5 degrees could even be exceeded in the first half of the 2030s. The warming is already around 1.1 degrees.
"The climate time bomb is ticking," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. "But today's IPCC report is a guide to defusing the climate time bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity." Guterres called for industrialized countries to reach net-zero emissions by 2040 instead of 2050 if possible. This means that no more greenhouse gases are then emitted than can be captured. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the report "makes it clear with brutal clarity that we are sawing the branch on which we are sitting as a global community."
CO2 emissions would have to fall drastically - but rise
To achieve the 1.5 degree target, global CO2 emissions would have to fall by 48 percent by 2030 compared to 2019. However, they are currently rising - after a small decline due to the corona pandemic. For the first time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also gives a corresponding target for 2035: minus 65 percent compared to 2019. "The speed and scope of the measures taken so far and the current plans are insufficient to combat climate change," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states.
"The urgency to do something by 2030 has increased," said co-author Matthias Garschagen, a climate researcher at Munich's Ludwig Maximilian University. The report shows that climate change is progressing faster and the consequences are more severe than initially thought. Almost half of the world's population, up to 3.6 billion people, live in regions that are likely to experience particularly severe consequences of climate change.
Consequences such as more frequent and severe heat waves, floods and droughts are already evident, such as the heat and floods in India and Pakistan in 2022 and the ongoing drought in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) just reported that there could have been up to 43,000 additional deaths in Somalia because of last year's drought.
Warming up to 3.5 degrees possible
If governments don't significantly ramp up their efforts to curb emissions, the world is heading for 2.2 to 3.5 degrees of warming, said World Weather Organization (WMO) secretary-general Petteri Taalas. There is only one way to stay close to the 1.5 degree target, said co-author Peter Thorne: "The rest of this decade will be crucial."
Even in the two most optimistic scenarios with very significant reductions in emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assumes that warming will temporarily exceed 1.5 degrees and will do so for several decades. It's clear why: "Public and private financial flows for fossil fuels are still larger than those for climate adaptation and mitigation," the report said.
"Message of Hope"
The chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Hoesung Lee, nevertheless called the report a "message of hope": Because the knowledge is there to limit climate change in the long term, as is the financial means. But three to six times as much has to be invested as today.
The new document is based on six reports over the past eight years that thousands of scientists have compiled. It sums up their findings and serves as a basis for action for politicians. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a body made up of 195 member countries. They struggled for days to formulate each word and approved the synthesis report. It's tedious, but it means they stop questioning the content. Building on this, they want to look this year at how the measures promised so far can be reconciled with climate protection goals (global stocktake). The current report shows that the balance sheet will be sobering.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recalls that the average global surface temperature has risen more since 1970 than in any other 50-year period for at least 2000 years. He emphasizes more than before who will be most harmed: "Vulnerable groups, which in the past have contributed least to the current climate change, are disproportionately affected."