UN Climate Report warns of potentially catastrophic future

3/20/23 by Mackenzie Bruno

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report summarizing research done and data gathered on climate change and the deadly consequences that rising temperatures will have within the decade. Fossil fuels and carbon emissions are being burned at an alarming rate, and if nothing is done to decrease these harmful habits by humans, global warming will be unable to be reversed. 

The U.N.’s “carbon budget” set a goal to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Human carbon pollution over the years is threatening to make this goal impossible. The recent IPCC report was called a “file of shame” by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. He said, “cataloging empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world.” The report outlined tons of options for countries around the world to reduce global warming to 1.5 degrees. 

The world needs to reduce carbon emissions by nearly two-thirds by 2035, which is no small feat. In order to achieve this task, the United Nations chief urged for the end of new fossil fuel explorations and for rich countries to put an end to coal, oil, and gas by 2040. The goal for developing countries is to achieve zero emissions by 2050. Rapidly cutting fossil fuels will help prevent the worst of climate change’s effects, which are quickly approaching as humanity can’t seem to shake releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. 

If no changes are made in the near future, the United Nations described the catastrophic effects that climate change will have. These include heat waves, famines, and infectious diseases that have the ability to claim millions of lives by the end of the century. The United Nations is calling for carbon-free electricity to be available by 2035. This means that there can be no power plants that are powered by gas by this time. The report stated that, “The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts for thousands of years.”

Despite the dramatic language used by the United Nations to press the world to make changes quickly to reduce fossil fuels, officials say that it is not too late to reverse the damage that has already been done. According to the report, the world is only a few tenths of a degree away from limiting global warming to the target goal of 1.5 degrees. Sheets of ice melting and rising sea levels are just two of the dangerous effects that will cause species to become extinct due to climate change. Small islands and mountain communities that depend on glaciers could be especially vulnerable. 

Scientists say that if the 1.5 degree mark is passed that it is a concern, but the world will not suddenly end and Earth won’t fall apart. As a result of passing the 1.5 degree mark, the Earth is just going to see more extreme weather events, and nothing will be solved unless gas emissions are reduced significantly. All of humanity needs to do their part to turn global emission trends in the right direction, and not take a step back.

Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Hoesung Lee stated, “The pace and scale of what has been done so far and current plans are insufficient to tackle climate change…We are walking when we should be sprinting.” This report comes a week after the Biden Administration in the United States approved an oil-drilling project in Alaska, which could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day.