Climate Crisis as Net-Zero Targets Missed In 2023 (Expert Opinion)
Scientists believe there is an unprecedented challenge to keep global warming to 1.5 ℃, affecting the threshold to achieve Net-Zero. A continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions has exacerbated the rate of global warming to 1.5 ℃, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in 2023. Increased increments in warming result in rapidly escalating natural hazards such as intense heatwaves, heavier rainfall and other weather extremes affecting food and water security, human health and ecosystems.
Understanding Global Warming of 1.5°C Threshold:
The 2018 IPCC reports that the current rate of increase has created a high confidence that global warming is very likely to reach 1.5 ℃ between 2030 and 2052. The climate-related risks will be worse for the global warming of 2°C compared to 1.5°C. The risks vary depending on the geographic location, levels of vulnerability, rate and magnitude of warming and the optionality in mitigation and adaptation.
Current Status and Trends
There is an upward trend in greenhouse gas emissions due to the imbalances brought on by our past and present actions. The imbalances are primarily due to unsustainable energy practices, land alterations as well as production and consumption patterns worldwide. Also, significant changes have occurred in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere. Human-caused climate change is already affecting weather and climate extremes worldwide. As a result, severe consequences and damages to the human population and the environment have ensued – disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities that have contributed less to the worsening climate conditions.
Future Climate Change, Risks and Long-Term Responses
Sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would bring about a noticeable slowdown in global warming within approximately two decades.
Ecosystem-based and water-related solutions that are effective today, will face reduced efficacy as global warming intensifies. Societies must adopt flexible, multi-sectorial, inclusive and long-term planning.
This decade is undoubtedly a decade of action because the extent of decarbonisation required plays a crucial role in determining whether warming can be restricted. Projections indicate that without significant preventative measures, CO2 emissions from business-as-usual would exceed the remaining carbon budget for limiting global warming to 1.5°C by 50%.
The global greenhouse gas emissions modelling scenarios restricting global warming to 1.5°C, with over 50% certainty and minimal overshooting, are expected to reach their highest point between 2020 and, at the latest, before 2025. Additionally, provided immediate action is taken, there is a 67% certainty that similar emission peaks are projected in pathways limiting warming to 2°C. Across all mitigation efforts for Net-Zero greenhouse gas emissions - forestry, land use change, and energy supply sectors achieve NetZero CO2 emissions before transport, buildings, and industry sectors.
Potential Responses in the Near-term
Rapid climate change relief demands higher up-front investment, but the long-term risks and costs are minimised. Pursuing vigorous short-term mitigation pathways will likely cause disruption in the economy but align well with the seventeen United Nations sustainable development goals. Thus, to minimise the adverse effects of these transformations we would have to pursue fiscal, financial, institutional, and regulatory reforms.
The critical steps to achieve reform require incorporating climate actions into macroeconomic policies, including:
- Comprehensive packages across the entire economy, supporting sustainable low-emission growth.
- Establishing climate-resilient social protection measures.
- Enhancing access to finance for low-emission infrastructure and technology, particularly in developing nations.
At Astutis, we are committed to providing world-class education and training for organisations that want to know how they can achieve Net-Zero, reducing their carbon footprint and helping society secure a sustainable future. Find out more about our mission and what we stand for.
About the Author:
Enock Ebbah MSc has a wealth of combined experience, having spent 13 years developing and delivering energy, environment and sustainability projects, energy research and responsible engineering. His specialist expertise in strategic NetZero solutions, energy transition, decarbonisation initiatives, and sustainable approaches to using energy, materials, and resources for sustainable development. As an Environment and Sustainability Consultant at Astutis, Enock helps organisations deliver ambitious environment, sustainability and NetZero outcomes by providing environmental assessments, environmental and sustainability training, ESG materiality assessments as well as sustainability reporting and strategy.
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