The United Nations has warned that humanity is on “thin ice” due to climate change, and that the window of opportunity for preventing the worst of its future effects is rapidly closing.
“Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast,” said UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres. “Our world needs climate action on all fronts – everything, everywhere, all at once.”
The warning comes after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that said the key to preventing the worst of climate change’s future harms lies in reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuel use by nearly two-thirds by 2035.
To stay under the warming limit set in the Paris climate agreement, the world needs to cut 60% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, according to calculations done by the panel, compared to 2019.
This figure marks a new target that has not been mentioned in the six previous reports issued since 2018.
“The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts for thousands of years,” the IPCC report noted, referring to climate change as “a threat to human well-being and planetary health.”
The report also highlighted the importance of the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit, indicating that pushing past this temperature would lead to “tipping points” of species extinction, irreversible melting of ice sheets, and sea levels rising by several meters.
“1.5 is a critical limit, particularly for small islands and mountain communities which depend on glaciers,” report co-author and water scientist Aditi Mukherji told The Associated Press.
“We are pretty much locked into 1.5,” added climate scientist Malte Meinshausen, another one of the report’s authors. “There’s very little way we will be able to avoid crossing 1.5C sometime in the 2030s.”
The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, indicating that we are only a few tenths of a degree away from the limit.
IPCC chairperson Hoesung Lee emphasized the role that governments play in addressing climate change, noting that staying under the 1.5 limit will depend on whether there is “political will to achieve that goal.”
“There is a pathway that we can resolve these problems, and this report provides a comprehensive overview of what actions we can take to lead us into a much better, liveable future,” Lee told The Associated Press.
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