Key takeaways from the IPCC report: 1.5 degrees is still possible, but we must act now

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The author, Niklas Kaskeala, is Chief Impact Officer at Compensate.

As most may have heard by now, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, most commonly known as the IPCC, published a comprehensive assessment of climate science on Monday. It’s the sixth such report from the IPCC since 1988. 

The latest report focuses on the physical science basis of climate change. The report advances what we already knew, with further detail, depth and certainty. Most importantly, the report tells us that human activity is “unequivocally” the cause of rapid changes to the climate, including sea level rises, melting polar ice and glaciers, heatwaves, floods and droughts.

Here are the key takeaways you need to know

  • Our planet is warming at an unprecedented pace. The level of CO2 in the atmosphere is higher than it has ever been in the past two million years. The IPCC confirms as “an established fact” that the current warming of the planet is entirely caused by human activity. 

  • We have now reached 1.1 degrees of warming. If we continue with current levels of emissions, we will reach 1.5 degrees in about 20 years, and 2.7 degrees by the end of the century.

  • The global carbon budget, that is how much CO2e humanity can still emit in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, will be depleted in 5-10 years. Warming will continue until carbon emissions reach net zero. 

  • We are already causing irreversible changes that will last for thousands of years to come. At current levels of emissions, glaciers and permafrost will continue to melt for decades and centuries, causing sea level rise that could last for millennia. 

The most important takeaway from the report is, however, that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, the goal set in the Paris Agreement, is still completely achievable. There is no physical reason why it shouldn’t still be possible. 

But science is also clear that we need immediate action. According to the IPCC, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will require halving global emissions by 2030, reaching global net zero by 2050 and negative emissions soon after that. 

People often ask me if I’m an optimist or a pessimist when it comes to believing that humanity will be able to tackle the climate crisis. I usually answer that I’m neither. The climate crisis has reached a point where every action, every bit of warming, every year and every choice matters. It doesn’t matter if you are an optimist or a pessimist, the important thing is that you are on the side of the solutions necessary.

The future is still in our hands. 

The climate crisis has reached a point where every action, every bit of warming, every year and every choice matters.

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