The environmental activist spoke out in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) warning that there would catastrophic consequences unless immediate action was taken to tackle global heating.
While UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres described the report as “code red for humanity”, Ms Thunberg called it a “solid but cautious” summary of the latest science.
The 18-year-old tweeted that the paper lays out the facts but does not tell people what to do. “It is up to us to be brave and take decisions based on the scientific evidence provided in these reports. We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis,” she wrote.
The IPCC report suggested that temperatures will exceed 1.5C above industrial levels within the next two decades unless fossil fuels are phased out. Countries have previously pledged to keep temperatures below this level.
Dr Tamsin Edwards, an academic at King’s College London who is one of the report’s lead authors, said: “Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the 1.5C target will be beyond reach.”
Another contributor, Professor Ed Hawkins, from the University of Reading, warned that all emissions were a cause for concern. “The consequences get worse and worse and worse as we get warmer and warmer and warmer, so every tonne of CO2 (carbon dioxide) matters, and every bit of warming matters,” he said.
The report, compiled by a group of 234 scientists from 66 countries, also points out that there is “unequivocal” evidence that humans are to blame for rising temperatures. This position is stronger than the IPCC’s 2013 assessment, which said people were the “dominant cause” of global heating.
With these scientists warning that countries’ current pledges could still lead to 2.7C of warming by the end of the century, the COP26 talks in Glasgow in November are seen as a crucial opportunity for the world to address the climate crisis.
“We can get to the low carbon economy we urgently need, but time is not on our side. This is the critical decade for action, and Cop26 in Glasgow must be a turning point in this crisis,” said John Kerry, the US Special presidential envoy for climate.
Boris Johnson made the same point after the pubication of the IPCC’s report. “It is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet. We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline,” he said.
The IPCC’s sixth assessment report will be published in full in 2022, including new sections on how best to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
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