To Prevent Catastrophic Damage by 2100, Climate Experts Warn ‘It’s Now or Never’

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states deep and rapid cuts to greenhouse gases are needed by 2025 to avoid an ‘unlivable world’

Coal plant near a field
Jaenschwalde Power Station, a brown coal power plant in Germany. John MacDougall / AFP via Getty Images

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a new climate change report warning that “rapid and deep” cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are needed to stay at or below the targeted 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming. Without strengthening climate policies, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to lead to a median global warming of about 3.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, per the report.

Climate scientists have previously warned that severe effects could occur if the Earth warms more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This temperature goal was set during the Paris Agreement in 2015, but the new report states we’re still far behind reaching it, reports Popular Sciences Sara Kiley Watson. 

“The jury has reached the verdict, and it is damning,” Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres said in a press conference. “This report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a litany of broken climate promises. It is a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world. We are on a fast-track to climate disaster.”

The 3,000-page report states global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest, must be reduced by 43 percent by 2030 and reduced by 84 percent by 2050 to reach the goal. Additionally, global use of coal must drop by 95 percent by 2050 compared to 2019, oil by 60 percent and gas by 45 percent. 

“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F),” says IPCC Working Group III co-chair Jim Skea in a statement. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

Catherine Mitchell, a professor emerita of energy policy at Exeter University, tells the Guardian’s Fiona Harvey that needs of poorer countries should be prioritized. 

“Unless we have social justice, there are not going to be more accelerated greenhouse gas reductions,” she says to the publication. “These issues are tied together.”

The release of the report was delayed by several hours because of disagreements on messaging in the “Summary for Policymakers,” the first part of the report that usually garners the most media attention, reports the Guardian’s Amy Westervelt. This summary must be approved by 195 countries, and this year’s approval process was the “longest and most contentious in the history of the IPCC,” per the publication. Language around the fossil fuels industry's contribution was present in the actual scientific report, but critics say it was held back from the 63-page summary, Westervelt writes. 

“The scientists clearly did their job and provided ample material on climate obstruction activities in the report,” environmental sociologist Robert Brulle of Brown University tells the publication. “The political process of creating the Summary for Policymakers ended up editing all of this information out.”

Despite the findings of the report, researchers say it’s not too late to cut down on emissions.

“Every fraction of a degree matters,” Ani Dasgupta, World Resources Institute president and CEO, says in a statement. “The tools required to rapidly decarbonize the economy so that people and nature can thrive are at our fingertips—we just need our leaders to wield them.”