IPCC AR6: 5 questions to understand Chapter 1

On April 4, 2022, the IPCC submitted the final part of its sixth report. Here are 5 questions to understand very easily the basics of Chapter 1.

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On April 4, 2022, the IPCC submitted the final part of its sixth report. In fact, you may have heard about its conclusions: they have simply gone all around the world. Far from playing naysayers, we must say that the IPCC’s assessment is not very encouraging - sorry. 😔 Regarding the danger embodied by climate change, the time is no longer for reflection but for action. Global warming is no longer a theory, it clearly threatens human life everywhere on the Earth. Then, there is one good news and one bad news. First, the worst: it is too late to prevent the consequences of global warming. The best: we can still limit their scope. Conclusion: all is not lost. 👊 We can save our planet - and its habitants, less importantly (just kidding). But it requires immediate action and change in our daily lives. The purpose of this third report is precisely to present the levers of action we have. That’s why Greenly has decided to see the glass half full rather than half empty. Even more: we have decided to make the details of this scientific report known and understandable to as many people as possible. In short: to promote these solutions to fight climate change, rather than continuing to whine about the deplorable state of the situation - we are responsible for. 😅 So, week after week, we’re going to go through the 17 chapters of this final IPCC report. One by one, just to explain it in a simple way. 17 chapters. 17 weeks to understand how we can still save the planet. Let’s go!

💨 What is the exact situation regarding our GHG emissions? Are they still increasing?

The global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions currently continue to rise. However, what is really interesting to underline is that this growth has slowed over the past decade. Does that mean that we are going well? Yes and no. 

Yes, the fact that we are already able to slow down the growth of our emissions is good news - of course.

BUT it is not enough to prevent us from disaster. As a reminder, to prevent us from the worst consequences of global warming (drought, submersion, fires, cyclones, diseases, shortages, massive population movements - and this is just a sample), we would have to limit global temperature rise under 1.5 °C. 

Let’s be clear: we are far from the mark. In fact, we are already in the process of exceeding this ceiling set in the Paris Agreement. Oups. 😶

Even if we add up all the reductions implied by current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to 2030, it is impossible to limit warming to 1.5°C. The current NDCs are only compatible with limiting warming below 2°C, BUT on the condition that these reductions proceed much steeper decline. In other words, on the condition that we accelerate mitigation actions at all scales (governments, companies and individuals).

In reality, if we continue in our current direction, we are near the upper end of the range of modeled pathways which keep temperatures likely below 2°C”. 

The IPCC’s report is clear: meeting the objective settled in the Paris Agreement implies an accelerated decline of GHG emissions towards ‘net zero’. Concretely, it requires urgent and ambitious action.

One more thing? Continuing investments in carbon-intensive activities would heighten the risks associated with climate change, while impeding societal and industrial transformation towards low carbon models. 

👌 Is it possible to achieve sustainable global development while eradicating poverty?

Yes. 😃 There are obviously some trade-offs. But effective and equitable climate policies are compatible with sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty - which is defined as the first of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN). 

In fact, climate mitigation is also included in these so-called goals that the UN pursues in the context of sustainable development, as evidenced by the wide range of the SDGs which are related to the environment. 

Climate mitigation has a lot of synergies and/or trade-offs with other SDGs like zero hunger, etc.

We know: there has been a strong correlation between economic development and greenhouse gas emissions. Through History, both per capita and absolute emissions have risen with industrialisation. However, countries are now able to grow their economies while reducing their GHG emissions

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic had far-reaching impacts on the global economy and society. And contrary to popular belief, this situation presents both challenges and opportunities for climate mitigation.

Indeed, this health crisis has strained public finances. However, climate finance into ongoing recovery strategies (at national and international levels) would be likely to accelerate the diffusion of low carbon technologies.

All of these statements must take into account that countries have different priorities in achieving the SDGs and reducing their CO2 emissions, considering their own conditions and capabilities. 

An effective climate policy will need to include the degree of vulnerabilities and impacts, as well as the capacities within and between nations. Without equity and justice, national and international support for deep decarbonisation may suffer from large weaknesses. 

💻 Can new technologies also open opportunities for deep decarbonisation?

Again, yes. Indeed, you won’t be surprised to learn that the transition to a low carbon economy depends on a wide range of intertwined drivers and constraints. 

Both new technologies and notable advances in this overall area have opened up large-scale opportunities for decarbonisation. But also for alternative pathways, which are related with social and developmental goals. 

That’s why they are included in the drivers for low carbon societal transition.

❗ Warning: this does not mean that new technologies are a miracle solution to global warming. They are tools, enabling us to make the transition of our societies towards a sustainable model. But new technology will NOT hinder climate change.

It only accounts among economic and technological factors (the means by which goods and services are provided, their emissions intensity, etc.), socio-political issues (political economy, social innovation and behaviour change), and institutional factors (legal framework, institutions, and international cooperation).

Moreover, the cost of some low carbon technologies has declined in recent years - alongside their quick deployment. In this context, many countries have already sustained emission reductions, and accelerated energy efficiency and land-use improvements

💣 Why does accelerating mitigation remain so complicated?

To efficiently accelerate mitigation, broadened assessment frameworks and tools have to be considered. And it is a huge task to carefully study all the implications that a shift to sustainable society may have.

Indeed, fully decarbonising our economies might be impossible without taking into account larger analytic frameworks that underline the challenges related to ecological transition. 🍃

The idea is to combine multiple perspectives, so that the negative impacts these changes may have on certain areas or populations remain minimized.

These frameworks are divided into 4 categories. 

  1. Aggregate frameworks, which include cost-effectiveness analysis, and cost-benefit analysis. 
  2. Ethical frameworks, which focuses on the fairness of processes and outcomes.
  3. Transition and transformation frameworks which evaluate the dynamics of transition to low-carbon models. 
  4. Psychological, behavioral and political frameworks, which underline the opportunities and constraints arising from human psychology. 

Beyond understanding all the implications of ecological transition, these frameworks also aim at highlighting potential synergies and trade-offs in mitigation.

👋 Are governments the only ones to be able to act? 

Of course, not. Achieving transition to a sustainable world requires coordinated planning and decisions at many scales, including local, national and global levels. And individuals are concerned. 🙋

The reflection, choices, as well as the processes for planning and implementing decisions also involve non-nation state actors like cities, businesses, and civil society organizations. 

In fact, this seems logical: climate change actions are embedded in much broader social, economic and political goals. That’s why the interaction between power, politics and economy is central to understanding why broad commitments do not often translate to urgent action.

Concretely: societal and behavioral norms, as well as regulations and institutions, remain essential to accelerate low carbon transitions. Everybody can act. Beginning with daily life.

“The speed, direction and depth of any transition will be determined by choices in the environmental, technological, economic, socio-cultural and institutional realms”. 

This also means that “the pace of a transition can be impeded by ‘lock-in’ generated by existing physical capital, institutions, and social norms”. 

🌎 What do you need to remember?

To accelerate climate mitigation, we need to strengthen our policies adopted to date, to expand the effort across broader areas and countries, and to include more diverse actors and societal processes

One nearly good news? Support for ecological policies and low carbon transition has globally increased in recent years, as the impacts have become more and more salient. 

Conclusion? Let’s not wait until the situation is irremediable to act. 🔥

🍀 Start your transition towards sustainable development!

Would you like to engage your company in the ecological transition too? Our experts are already waiting for your call: ask for your carbon assessment and contribute to the collective effort against climate change!

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