Leading figures say that time is running out to turn the tide on carbon emissions heating the planet as the US woke up on Monday to stark warnings from the UN’s landmark climate report.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading body for assessing climate science, has published the first chapter of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), considered the most robust accounting of the crisis.
The report is seen as a milestone ahead of the international climate summit, Cop26, in Glasgow this November. The assessment will play an important role in informing high-level discussions on how to cut global emissions.
Former vice president Al Gore, whose climate documentary An Inconvenient Truth came out 15 years ago, tweeted on Monday: “The science is clear: there is no time left to waste.”
In the IPCC report, scientists noted that the climate crisis is widespread, rapid and intensifying – and no region on Earth will escape the changes that are taking place across whole climate systems.
It is also “unequivocal” that human influence, largely from the burning of fossil fuels, is heating the atmosphere, ocean and land, the report found.
“The IPCC report underscores the overwhelming urgency of this moment,” Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said.
“All major economies must commit to aggressive climate action during this critical decade. It’s the only way to put us on a credible track to global net zero emissions by midcentury. 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.”
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) newest report makes it clear – climate change is already a crisis.
“As countries prepare for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, this report is a stark reminder that we must let science drive us to action. This moment requires world leaders, the private sector, and individuals to act together with urgency and do everything it takes to protect our planet and our future in this decade and beyond.”
However, the 234 scientists from 66 countries who authored the report stressed that humanity’s actions still have the ability to determine the course.
“We know that there’s no going back from some changes in the climate system,” Ko Barrett, IPCC vice chair and senior climate adviser at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told a press briefing. “However, some of these changes could be slowed and others could be stopped by limiting warming.”
“Strong and sustained reductions” in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and other greenhouse gases (GHGs), particularly methane, would limit impacts, the report states.
In typical pulling-no-punches style, Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator of Vermont, offered his blunt assessment of the IPCC report.
“The IPCC is telling us what every sane person knows,” Mr Sanders tweeted. “Unless there is BOLD action to combat climate change, the planet we will be leaving our kids and future generations will be increasingly uninhabitable. Now is the time for action.”
The liberal senator is one of the most vocal and enduring advocates for climate action in US politics.
When is comes to President Biden’s infrastructure package, he has implored fellow senators on both sides of the aisle to focus on fighting climate change along with other priorities like boosting the middle class and providing adequate healthcare.
He also insists that it is long past time that wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes to combat these issues.
Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg and UN Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, called for a rapid shift to clean power, saying that recent progress was promising but still not enough.
He said: “To respond to the climate crisis with the urgency that is required, it’s clear what we need to do: Drive down carbon emissions and transition to a clean energy economy – and quickly.
“We’ve made some great progress recently, but this report is sounding an alarm about how much more we need to do, and how tight time is getting. If more governments and businesses take bold action, we can still avoid the worst impacts of climate change and build a better future for our children and grandchildren.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies