IPCC’s starkest message yet: extreme steps needed to avert climate disaster

On April 4, 2022, Working Group III formally published their input for the Sixth Assessment Report.

Quick Mini Primer to set some context

The Sixth Assessment Report, sometimes referred to as AR6 or IPCC AR6, is so named because it is the sixth in a series that assess scientific, technical, and socio-economic information concerning climate change. Since the first in 1990, these major reports have been published roughly every six years. As our understanding grows, each brings deeper clarity.

AR6 will be completed by the end of this year. It consists of 4 parts as follows:

  • The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change – Published August 6, 2021 – This is the Working Group I (WGI) contribution
    • Link Here
    • Content: Current state of Climate and possible Futures
    • Basically: Climate change is real and unless we do something then we are truly F**ked.
  • Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability – Published February 2022 This is the Working Group II (WGII) contribution
    • Link Here
    • Content: Observed and projected impacts and risks; Adaption; Resilient Development
    • Basically: It is going to get bad, very very bad. We are attempting to adapt, but unless we up our game, we are truly F**ked.
  • Mitigation of climate change – Published April 2022 – This is what has just been published, and is the Working Group III (WGIII) contribution
    • We will come to this below – The title of this article is a not so subtle hint.
  • Synthesis Report (SYR) – Due to be published in October 2022

Once that final Synthesis Report has been published, then AR6 is complete.

Outside the normal AR6 cycle there have also been several special reports …

  • Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate povertywas – October 2018
  • Climate Change and Land, an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems was launched in August 2019, and the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate – September 2019

OK, let’s get into the WG III report that has just been published.

Mitigation Of Climate Change – April 2022

As explained above, this is the input from Working Group III for AR6.

You can find the IPCC details here including the full report and also a shorter Exec summary.

  • You really do need that summary – the full report is 3,675 pages long (280MB), and is split into 17 chapters.
  • There is a technical summary of 96 pages
  • Then of course, the exec summary. This is 37 pages.

In other words, there is a great deal of information here.

Summary of a Summary of a Summary

Basically the 30,000 foot view.

What follows are the headline statements from the overarching conclusions of the approved Summary for Policymakers. These provide a concise narrative of the WG III report. I’ve stripped out the footnotes and references in an attempt to further shorten it.

About here is where you can most probably cue the sound of eyes glazing over. Honestly, many will see the word “climate” and have not even read this far. The thought might be, “Well yea, THEY, will sort it out, I can carry on as normal”.

The only problem is that there is no “THEY”, it is just us.

B.Recent developments and current trends 
B.1Total net anthropogenic GHG emissions have continued to rise during the period 2010–2019, as have cumulative net CO2 emissions since 1850. Average annual GHG emissions during 2010-2019 were higher than in any previous decade, but the rate of growth between 2010 and 2019 was lower than that between 2000 and 2009. (high confidence)
B.2Net anthropogenic GHG emissions have increased since 2010 across all major sectors globally. An increasing share of emissions can be attributed to urban areas. Emissions reductions in CO2 from fossil fuels and industrial processes, due to improvements in energy intensity of GDP and carbon intensity of energy, have been less than emissions increases from rising global activity levels in industry, energy supply, transport, agriculture and buildings. (high confidence)
B.3Regional contributions to global GHG emissions continue to differ widely. Variations in regional, and national per capita emissions partly reflect different development stages, but they also vary widely at similar income levels. The 10% of households with the highest per capita emissions contribute a disproportionately large share of global household GHG emissions. At least 18 countries have sustained GHG emission reductions for longer than 10 years. (high confidence
B.4The unit costs of several low-emission technologies have fallen continuously since 2010. Innovation policy packages have enabled these cost reductions and supported global adoption. Both tailored policies and comprehensive policies addressing innovation systems have helped overcome the distributional, environmental and social impacts potentially associated with global diffusion of low-emission technologies. Innovation has lagged in developing countries due to weaker enabling conditions. Digitalisation can enable emission reductions, but can have adverse side-effects unless appropriately governed. (high confidence
B.5There has been a consistent expansion of policies and laws addressing mitigation since AR5. This has led to the avoidance of emissions that would otherwise have occurred and increased investment in low-GHG technologies and infrastructure. Policy coverage of emissions is uneven across sectors. Progress on the alignment of financial flows towards the goals of the Paris Agreement remains slow and tracked climate finance flows are distributed unevenly across regions and sectors. (high confidence)
B.6Global GHG emissions in 2030 associated with the implementation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) announced prior to COP26 would make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century. Likely limiting warming to below 2°C would then rely on a rapid acceleration of mitigation efforts after 2030. Policies implemented by the end of 2020 are projected to result in higher global GHG emissions than those implied by NDCs. (high confidence
B.7Projected cumulative future CO2 emissions over the lifetime of existing and currently planned fossil fuel infrastructure without additional abatement exceed the total cumulative net CO2 emissions in pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot. They are approximately equal to total cumulative net CO2 emissions in pathways that limit warming to 2°C (>67%). (high confidence)
C.System transformations to limit global warming
C.1Global GHG emissions are projected to peak between 2020 and at the latest before 2025 in global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot and in those that limit warming to 2°C (>67%) and assume immediate action. [Table SPM footnote [#9],  In both types of modelled pathways, rapid and deep GHG emissions reductions follow throughout 2030, 2040 and 2050 (high confidence). Without a strengthening of policies beyond those that are implemented by the end of 2020, GHG emissions are projected to rise beyond 2025, leading to a median global warming of 3.2 [2.2 to 3.5] °C by 2100  (medium confidence).
C.2Global net zero CO2 emissions are reached in the early 2050s in modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot, and around the early 2070s in modelled pathways that limit warming to 2°C (>67%). Many of these pathways continue to net negative CO2 emissions after the point of net zero. These pathways also include deep reductions in other GHG emissions. The level of peak warming depends on cumulative CO2 emissions until the time of net zero CO2 and the change in non-CO2 climate forcers by the time of peaking. Deep GHG emissions reductions by 2030 and 2040, particularly reductions of methane emissions, lower peak warming, reduce the likelihood of overshooting warming limits and lead to less reliance on net negative CO2 emissions that reverse warming in the latter half of the century. Reaching and sustaining global net zero GHG emissions results in a gradual decline in warming. (high confidence)
C.3All global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C (>67%) involve rapid and deep and in most cases immediate GHG emission reductions in all sectors. Modelled mitigation strategies to achieve these reductions include transitioning from fossil fuels without CCS to very low- or zero-carbon energy sources, such as renewables or fossil fuels with CCS, demand side measures and improving efficiency, reducing non-CO2 emissions, and deploying carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods to counterbalance residual GHG emissions. Illustrative Mitigation Pathways (IMPs) show different combinations of sectoral mitigation strategies consistent with a given warming level. (high confidence)
C.4Reducing GHG emissions across the full energy sector requires major transitions, including a substantial reduction in overall fossil fuel use, the deployment of low-emission energy sources, switching to alternative energy carriers, and energy efficiency and conservation. The continued installation of unabated fossil fuel infrastructure will ‘lock-in’ GHG emissions. (high confidence)
C.5Net-zero CO2 emissions from the industrial sector are challenging but possible. Reducing industry emissions will entail coordinated action throughout value chains to promote all mitigation options, including demand management, energy and materials efficiency, circular material flows, as well as abatement technologies and transformational changes in production processes. Progressing towards net zero GHG emissions from industry will be enabled by the adoption of new production processes using low and zero GHG electricity, hydrogen, fuels, and carbon management. (high confidence)
C.6Urban areas can create opportunities to increase resource efficiency and significantly reduce GHG emissions through the systemic transition of infrastructure and urban form through low-emission development pathways towards net-zero emissions. Ambitious mitigation efforts for established, rapidly growing and emerging cities will encompass 1) reducing or changing energy and material consumption, 2) electrification, and 3) enhancing carbon uptake and storage in the urban environment. Cities can achieve net-zero emissions, but only if emissions are reduced within and outside of their administrative boundaries through supply chains, which will have beneficial cascading effects across other sectors. (very high confidence)
C.7In modelled global scenarios, existing buildings, if retrofitted, and buildings yet to be built, are projected to approach net zero GHG emissions in 2050 if policy packages, which combine ambitious sufficiency, efficiency, and renewable energy measures, are effectively implemented and barriers to decarbonisation are removed. Low ambitious policies increase the risk of lock-in buildings in carbon for decades while well-designed and effectively implemented mitigation interventions, in both new buildings and existing ones if retrofitted, have significant potential to contribute to achieving SDGs in all regions while adapting buildings to future climate. (high confidence)
C.8Demand-side options and low-GHG emissions technologies can reduce transport sector emissions in developed countries and limit emissions growth in developing countries (high confidence). Demand-focused interventions can reduce demand for all transport services and support the shift to more energy efficient transport modes (medium confidence). Electric vehicles powered by low emissions electricity offer the largest decarbonisation potential for land-based transport, on a life cycle basis (high confidence). Sustainable biofuels can offer additional mitigation benefits in land-based transport in the short and medium term (medium confidence). Sustainable biofuels, low emissions hydrogen, and derivatives (including synthetic fuels) can support mitigation of CO2 emissions from shipping, aviation, and heavy-duty land transport but require production process improvements and cost reductions (medium confidence).  Many mitigation strategies in the transport sector would have various co-benefits, including air quality improvements, health benefits, equitable access to transportation services, reduced congestion, and reduced material demand (high confidence).
C.9AFOLU mitigation options, when sustainably implemented, can deliver large-scale GHG emission reductions and enhanced removals, but cannot fully compensate for delayed action in other sectors. In addition, sustainably sourced agricultural and forest products can be used instead of more GHG intensive products in other sectors. Barriers to implementation and trade-offs may result from the impacts of climate change, competing demands on land, conflicts with food security and livelihoods, the complexity of land ownership and management systems, and cultural aspects. There are many country-specific opportunities to provide co-benefits (such as biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, and livelihoods) and avoid risks (for example, through adaptation to climate change). (high confidence)
C.10Demand-side mitigation encompasses changes in infrastructure use, end-use technology adoption, and socio-cultural and behavioural change. Demand-side measures and new ways of end-use service provision can reduce global GHG emissions in end use sectors by 40-70% by 2050 compared to baseline scenarios, while some regions and socioeconomic groups require additional energy and resources. Demand side mitigation response options are consistent with improving basic wellbeing for all. (high confidence)
C.11The deployment of CDR to counterbalance hard-to-abate residual emissions is unavoidable if net zero CO2 or GHG emissions are to be achieved. The scale and timing of deployment will depend on the trajectories of gross emission reductions in different sectors. Upscaling the deployment of CDR depends on developing effective approaches to address feasibility and sustainability constraints especially at large scales. (high confidence)
C.12Mitigation options costing USD100 tCO2-eq-1 or less could reduce global GHG emissions by at least half the 2019 level by 2030 (high confidence). Global GDP continues to grow in modelled pathways but, without accounting for the economic benefits of mitigation action from avoided damages from climate change nor from reduced adaptation costs, it is a few percent lower in 2050 compared to pathways without mitigation beyond current policies. The global economic benefit of limiting warming to 2°C is reported to exceed the cost of mitigation in most of the assessed literature. (medium confidence)
D.Linkages between mitigation, adaptation, and sustainable development
D.1Accelerated and equitable climate action in mitigating, and adapting to, climate change impacts is critical to sustainable development. Climate change actions can also result in some trade-offs. The trade-offs of individual options could be managed through policy design. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted under the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can be used as a basis for evaluating climate action in the context of sustainable development. (high confidence)
D.2There is a strong link between sustainable development, vulnerability and climate risks. Limited economic, social and institutional resources often result in high vulnerability and low adaptive capacity, especially in developing countries (medium confidence). Several response options deliver both mitigation and adaptation outcomes, especially in human settlements , land management, and in relation to ecosystems. However, land and aquatic ecosystems can be adversely affected by some mitigation actions, depending on their implementation (medium confidence). Coordinated cross-sectoral policies and planning can maximise synergies and avoid or reduce trade-offs between mitigation and adaptation (high confidence).
D.3Enhanced mitigation and broader action to shift development pathways towards sustainability will have distributional consequences within and between countries. Attention to equity and broad and meaningful participation of all relevant actors in decision-making at all scales can build social trust, and deepen and widen support for transformative changes. (high confidence)
E.Strengthening the response
E.1There are mitigation options which are feasible to deploy at scale in the near term. Feasibility differs across sectors and regions, and according to capacities and the speed and scale of implementation. Barriers to feasibility would need to be reduced or removed, and enabling conditions strengthened to deploy mitigation options at scale. These barriers and enablers include geophysical, environmental-ecological, technological, and economic factors, and especially institutional and socio-cultural factors. Strengthened near-term action beyond the NDCs (announced prior to UNFCCC COP26) can reduce and/or avoid long-term feasibility challenges of global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5 °C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot. (high confidence)
E.2In all countries, mitigation efforts embedded within the wider development context can increase the pace, depth and breadth of emissions reductions (medium confidence). Policies that shift development pathways towards sustainability can broaden the portfolio of available mitigation responses, and enable the pursuit of synergies with development objectives (medium confidence). Actions can be taken now to shift development pathways and accelerate mitigation and transformations across systems (high confidence).
E.3Climate governance, acting through laws, strategies and institutions, based on national circumstances, supports mitigation by providing frameworks through which diverse actors interact, and a basis for policy development and implementation (medium confidence). Climate governance is most effective when it integrates across multiple policy domains, helps realise synergies and minimize trade-offs, and connects national and sub-national policy-making levels (high confidence). Effective and equitable climate governance builds on engagement with civil society actors, political actors, businesses, youth, labour, media, Indigenous Peoples and local communities (medium confidence). 
E.4Many regulatory and economic instruments have already been deployed successfully. Instrument design can help address equity and other objectives. These instruments could support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation if scaled up and applied more widely (high confidence). Policy packages that enable innovation and build capacity are better able to support a shift towards equitable low-emission futures than are individual policies (high confidence). Economy-wide packages, consistent with national circumstances, can meet short-term economic goals while reducing emissions and shifting development pathways towards sustainability (medium confidence).
E.5Tracked financial flows fall short of the levels needed to achieve mitigation goals across all sectors and regions. The challenge of closing gaps is largest in developing countries as a whole. Scaling up mitigation financial flows can be supported by clear policy choices and signals from governments and the international community. (high confidence) Accelerated international financial cooperation is a critical enabler of low-GHG and just transitions, and can address inequities in access to finance and the costs of, and vulnerability to, the impacts of climate change (high confidence).
E.6International cooperation is a critical enabler for achieving ambitious climate change mitigation goals. The UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, and Paris Agreement are supporting rising levels of national ambition and encouraging development and implementation of climate policies, although gaps remain. Partnerships, agreements, institutions and initiatives operating at the sub-global and sectoral levels and engaging multiple actors are emerging, with mixed levels of effectiveness. (high confidence)

To distill the above down even further, you basically have this …

  • Greenhouse gases have reached their highest level ever in all of human history, but the rate of growth has slowed down.
  • The cost of renewal energy sources (solar and wind) had rapidly decreased. The path to renewable is rapidly accelerating
  • We really can now greatly decrease our fossil fuel usage
  • Achieving net zero will be challenging
  • The steps we take in the next few years are vital – basically now or never.

Quote Mining the Press Release

They do of course have a press release. Embedded within that are a few quotes that I’ve pulled out.

In other words, here are some reactions to the content from key movers and shakers …

We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming, I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective.  If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.

IPCC Chair, Hoesung Lee

Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behaviour can result in a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential, The evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve our health and wellbeing.

IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Shukla

We see examples of zero energy or zero-carbon buildings in almost all climates, Action in this decade is critical to capture the mitigation potential of buildings.

“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

Without taking into account the economic benefits of reduced adaptation costs or avoided climate impacts, global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be just a few percentage points lower in 2050 if we take the actions necessary to limit warming to 2°C (3.6°F) or below, compared to maintaining current policies,

Climate change is the result of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production, This report shows how taking action now can move us towards a fairer, more sustainable world.” 

IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea

What actions can you personally take?

There are the obvious small steps …

  • Recycle – hopefully you already do this
  • Cut back meat and dairy … for example soya is a good alternative to milk. Give it a go.
  • etc…

One very obvious thing is this …

  • Who you vote for will matter. I don’t mean a vote for those that pay lip service, who paint what they have always done with a light shade of green, but rather you need to vote for those that have a vision that has been coupled with a deep passion to take meaningful decisive steps via policy decisions.

Climate change is the greatest challenge ever faced by our species. We need politicians who truly do recognize this. Honestly, if we end up voting for the nutters (again) who instead focus all their energy on anti-gay bigotry, strive to address a fictitious CRT boggyman, or use the word “woke” as a prerogative, then we truly do deserve to go extinct.

We really can do better, far far better.

There are also several other big-ticket items that you can personally consider …

  • Increase and improve your home insulation
  • Drive electric – seriously consider it as your next car. Yes, expensive to buy, but crunch the numbers and understand what the total cost of ownership really is. The true cost is not just the price, but also what you pay to pump gas into it every week.
  • Consider solar panels – Also consider having batteries. Capture as much as possible and use it all instead of selling it back. Also consider a power diverter. When the batteries are fully charged and you still have power coming from the panels, it will switch and start heating water, thus you capture even more value that way. You can also, if it is possible to get a cheap tarrif from the grid when demand is low, leverage that to charge up extra batteries.

The above will cost, but if you crunch the numbers you will discover that doing it all costs you less than the cost of not doing it. It is actually an investment that will put you personally in a better financial position.

Climate change is one of those things that we all talk about, yet we also don’t do very much about.

Give some serious thought to changes that really do make a difference.

Take it a step at a time, but once you take that first step, keep going.

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