Humans responsible for ‘irreversible’ climate change, UN warns

Humans responsible for ‘irreversible’ climate change, UN warns
Environmental protester chats to a cyclist as he stands with placards and plastic bottles in London on Monday. The authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report calls the climate change clearly human-caused and “unequivocal.” (AP)
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Updated 10 August 2021

Humans responsible for ‘irreversible’ climate change, UN warns

Humans responsible for ‘irreversible’ climate change, UN warns
  • UN report urges supply of affordable energy with minimum impact on environment

LONDON: Changes to the climate, including more severe weather events and rising sea levels, are irreversible and only more large-scale action by humanity can stop it spiraling out of control, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report today.

The world will pass the 1.5 C warming threshold that the 2015 Paris Agreement aimed to avoid within 20 years. The temperature could jump by 2.0 C by 2060 and 2.7 C by the century’s end, the IPCC said in its latest update, which drew on 14,000 scientific studies.

“The alarm bells are deafening,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”

In three months’ time, the UN COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland will try to wring much more ambitious climate action out of the nations of the world, and the money to go with it.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hoped the report would be “a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow.”

The report says emissions “unequivocally caused by human activities” have already pushed the average global temperature up 1.1 C from its pre-industrial average. They would have raised it 0.5 C further without the cooling effect of pollution in the atmosphere, it said.

Some climate changes are already unavoidable, according to the report. Greenland’s sheet of land-ice is “virtually certain” to continue melting, which will in turn raise the sea level for centuries to come as the oceans warm and expand.

“We are now committed to some aspects of climate change, some of which are irreversible for hundreds to thousands of years,” said IPCC co-author Tamsin Edwards, a climate scientist at King’s College London. “But the more we limit warming, the more we can avoid or slow down those changes.” 

The only way of meeting the Paris goal of keeping temperature increases to 1.5 C by the end of the century is through negative emissions, which involves sucking more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than is added, the viability of which is questioned by many scientists.

“This report highlights the importance of the Middle East Green and Saudi Green initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to produce energy globally on a sustainable basis,” Cornelia Meyer, CEO of energy consultancy Meyer Resources, told Arab News. “As we still need oil and gas, we still need producers and we need to look at other technologies beyond renewables, such as carbon capture.”

She added: “We need to look at all methods to ensure people can be supplied with affordable energy while having a minimum impact on the environment.”