The Latest Release
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its sixth assessment report, the “AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023.” The report is a comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the state of the climate, based on eight years of work by scientists and experts who assessed thousands of scientific papers. While the report highlights the urgent need for immediate and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic consequences, it is important to avoid fatalism and instead focus on the potential for meaningful action to address the problem.
Don’t Be Disheartened
The report underscores that limiting global warming to 2°C (1.5°C will likely be missed) depends on swift and drastic action, which can avert irrevocable damage to the ecosystem. The worst-case scenario, SSP5-8.5, where we keep burning fossil fuels with reckless abandon, is always included as a reference point of how bad things could theoretically get but is really the doomsday scenario that is very unlikely to happen. Similarly, the SSP1-1.9 where everyone hits Net Zero by 2050 seems reasonably unlikely but is much more probable than the worst case. The most likely case, given the enormous breakthrough of sustainability into all aspects of modern life and governance, would probably be somewhere in between the SSP1-2.6 and SSP2-4.5; warming of roughly 2°C+, posing significant technical and ecological challenges but manageable and still prosperous for humans.
The report acknowledges that we are not starting from scratch, and many countries, businesses, and individuals around the world have already taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint and started the transition to renewable energy sources. It’s important to recognise the positive impact these actions will have and not become despondent or disheartened by the fatalistic narrative that often forms in the media after any IPCC release. The report highlights the need for continued and expanded efforts to scale-up these existing actions and achieve the necessary reductions in emissions, and to embrace the necessary change as a step forward rather than a regression.
Optimism Can Breed Action
The IPCC report also highlights some positive trends that likely won’t make the headlines. For example, renewable energy is becoming increasingly more cost-competitive with fossil fuels, and new mandatory policies and sustainability frameworks such as TCFD, SFDR, or Biodiversity Net Gain are being implemented on a national or global scale.
It is essential to recognise that acting on climate change is not just about avoiding catastrophic consequences. There are also many benefits to be gained from a transition to a low-carbon economy, including improved public health, increased energy security, and job creation. The important thing is not to be discouraged by fatalistic headlines and to look for what your organisation can do to reduce carbon emissions. It’s amazing to see what innovations and adaptations have already been made in recent years to create a low-carbon economy, and it’s only going to get better.
The next IPCC report is not due to be published before 2030, making this report the primary reference point, and this decade the time for taking significant action. Since the publication of the report, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has reiterated his call for governments to take drastic action to reduce emissions by investing in renewable energy and low-carbon technology. Continuous innovation is a vital endeavour, and the report also states that many of the technologies and solutions exist today, but a great deal of further innovation is needed to commercialise more advanced technologies to reach Net Zero.
In conclusion, the latest IPCC assessment report on climate change may seem daunting, but it’s important to remember that we still have time to correct course. By taking action now, we can create a better future. So, let’s focus on the potential for meaningful change, and work together to build a more sustainable future. Whether it’s reducing your carbon footprint, supporting renewable energy or changing your purchasing policy, every small step counts towards the long-term goal.