IIASA researchers contributed to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released earlier this week. The report highlights that there are multiple feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now.

In 2018, the IPCC highlighted the unprecedented scale of the challenge required to keep warming to 1.5°C. Today, that challenge has become even greater due to a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are insufficient to tackle the challenge.

Every increment of warming results in rapidly escalating hazards. More intense heatwaves, heavier rainfall, and other weather extremes further increase risks for human health and ecosystems. In many regions, people are dying from extreme heat. Climate-driven food and water insecurity are expected to rise with increased warming. When the risks combine with other adverse events, such as pandemics or conflicts, they become even more difficult to manage.

The synthesis report, which was approved during a week-long session in Interlaken, Switzerland, was attended by IPCC authors from around the world, including several contributors from IIASA, and brings into sharp focus the losses and damages we are already experiencing and will continue to experience into the future, hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems especially hard. Taking the right action now could result in the transformational change needed for a sustainable, equitable world.

“Historical and ongoing contributions to climate change are unequal, with vulnerable communities who have contributed the least historically being affected disproportionately. Cutting emissions by half by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C will require deep, rapid, and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors. Efforts toward this need to be fairly distributed and transitions must be just,” explains IPCC lead author and IIASA Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group Leader, Shonali Pachauri.

According to the report, the solution lies in climate resilient development. This involves integrating measures to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in ways that provide wider benefits.

For example, access to clean energy and technologies improves health, especially for women and children; low-carbon electrification, walking, cycling, and public transport enhance air quality, improve health, employment opportunities and deliver equity. The economic benefits for people’s health from air quality improvements alone would be roughly the same, or possibly even larger than the costs of reducing or avoiding emissions.

Climate resilient development becomes progressively more challenging with every increment of warming. This is why the choices made in the next few years will play a critical role in deciding our future and that of generations to come. To be effective, these choices need to be rooted in diverse values, worldviews, and knowledge, including scientific knowledge, indigenous knowledge, and local knowledge. This approach will facilitate climate resilient development and allow locally appropriate, socially acceptable solutions.

The authors point out that accelerated climate action will only come about if there is a many-fold increase in finance and that there is in fact sufficient global capital to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if existing barriers are reduced. Increasing finance to climate investments is important to achieve global climate goals. Governments, through public funding and clear signals to investors, are key in reducing these barriers, while investors, central banks, and financial regulators can also play their part.

“Climate change risks are magnified in cities that are home to more than half of the Earths inhabitants. In urban areas, informal settlements and marginalised groups are most vulnerable and have the largest gaps in climate change adoption. Climate justice, social justice, and other equitable approaches can help close these gaps in adapting to climate change as well as widen support across society for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” notes Leila Niamir, an IPCC author and a researcher in the IIASA Energy, Climate, and Environment Program.

If technology, know-how and suitable policy measures are shared, and adequate finance is made available now, every community can reduce or avoid carbon-intensive consumption. At the same time, with significant investment in adaptation, we can avert rising risks, especially for vulnerable groups and regions.

Climate, ecosystems, and society are interconnected. Effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30-50% of the Earth’s land, freshwater, and ocean will help ensure a healthy planet. Urban areas offer a global scale opportunity for ambitious climate action that contributes to sustainable development.

Changes in the food sector, electricity, transport, industry, buildings, and land-use can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, they can make it easier for people to lead low-carbon lifestyles, which will also improve health and wellbeing. A better understanding of the consequences of overconsumption can help people make more informed choices.

“Like previous IPCC reports, this new synthesis report urges action on the urgent need for deep and sustained emissions reductions and highlights feasible and effective options for achieving this in a way that is fair and equitable. The ball is now in the court of the decision makers. I hope they take the urgency of action to heart and initiate the required actions without further delay,” concludes IIASA Energy, Climate, and Environment Program Director, Keywan Riahi, who is also the coordinating lead author of Working Group III of the Sixth Assessment Report.

IIASA researchers contributed to all the IPCC reports during the sixth assessment cycle. IIASA also hosts the IPCC Scenario Explorer and databases underlying the Fifth and Sixth Assessment Reports, as well as the Special Report on 1.5°C as part of a memorandum of understanding with the IPCC and the Integrated Assessment Modeling Consortium. Click here to read more about the institute’s involvement and contributions to the IPCC.


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