Last chance to save earth – IPCC report warns


“We are walking when we should be sprinting.”

IPCC chair Hoesung Lee utters these sobering words to launch the IPCC Synthesis Report which warns that the window is closing on mankind’s hope to save the planet.

Lee’s haunting words describe how countries, especially developed and industrial powers, are not doing enough to slow down earth’s temperature rise.

More than 200 scientists are behind this ‘last chance’ to limit climate change call.

They work for the Inter-governmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) – the scientific body established in 1988 that advises the UN on rising temperatures.

The report was released last week Monday, March 20, the IPCC’s sixth ever comprehensive assessment report since its first in 1990 after climate change was accepted as a real threat.

Dubbed the AR6 report, it says more drastic emission cuts (about 50 percent) is needed and faster too by 2030 (just seven years away) to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times.

But already global temperature rise has reached 1.1 C.

“The climate time-bomb is ticking,” says UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.

“The rate of temperature rise in the last half century is the highest in 2000 years. Concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest in at least two million years.”

What does this mean for Solomon Islands?

From this brief on the AR6 alone we can surmise that it will be business as usual for Solomon Islands – it is now a new normal to experience change over smaller time periods.

For starters, we would expect to see more bad weather extremes; such as the past month in which two cyclones formed on our shores just a week apart from each other.

More of our small islands or islets, along with our artificial islands which our hard-working forefathers had toiled to build, will continue to be swallowed by the waves quicker than before.

More and more coastal lands will lose their ability to support growth of crops and plants due to saltwater encroachment.

These would come at a time where government is slow with its repatriation plans, if there is any, for communities in sinking atolls and other vulnerable locations.

Most homes in the Solomon Islands are not designed to withstand cyclones, prolonged heavy rains and winds. Their designs do not factor climate change mitigation.

Solomon Islands joins other Pacific island states which are low-lying, most vulnerable and donor-dependent when it comes to facing climate change.

We collectively contribute an insignificant amount to global carbon emissions, compared to developed, developing and continental countries. But ironically, we stand in front to be the most vulnerable to climate change effects and impacts.

Climate finance is available but limited, simply not enough to prepare everyone equitably to face climate change.

Government’s main arm which deals with climate change is its ministry of environment (MECDM). And, MECDM has allocated a whole division to handle climate change.

With the climate change onslaught occurring at a fast pace, the MECDM Climate Change division has devised an innovative mechanism to holistically address challenges communities across the country face.

The Solomon Islands Integrated Vulnerability Assessment (SIIVA) programme incorporates all sectors as it reaches out to communities across country.

SIIVA assures communities are empowered to mitigate climate change impacts, taking onboard considerations from a wide range of sectors including agriculture, infrastructure, telecommunication, fisheries, water and sanitation, forestry, family & community welfare, education, finance and commerce, electricity and solar energy, inclusivity with persons with disability, disaster, health and medical, etc.

This week a major workshop and training is being carried out by the MECDM Climate Change division with the Australian Humanitarian Partnership with support of the Australian government.

Concerted efforts with partners and stakeholders will increase the efficiency of SIIVA.

All is well, save for the fact that SIIVA depends entirely on funds, something which the current government cannot afford at the moment with its flagship event only few months away.

Clearly, international donors are leading the charge. But, more climate financing are needed.

Back to the IPCC report

Keeping within 1.5 C is the main message. But already we are at 1.1 C. And, with the current rate of emitting we could hit 1.5 C in the 2030’s, just seven years away.

If we are to contain global warming within 1.5 C, IPCC warns that carbon emission must be halved by 2030, quite a huge ask for major emitters like the US, China, Russia, European and Asian countries whose economies ride on energy which depends on carbon combustion.

Meanwhile, warning bells rung by Stanford University research early this year say there has already been enough global warming that even if we were to reduce emission in the next decades, global temperatures will still rise by 2 C by the century’s halfway.

This research employed AI (artificial intelligence) to analyse recent temperature observations from around the world.

IPCC had maintained that if we can hit net-zero by 2050 we can avoid reaching 2 C. But, with the arrival of the AR6 report, tones have changed.

Nations are now being urged to “fast forward” on their net-zero plans, “super-charge” efforts to achieve climate change goals.

UN secretary general Guterres says countries should bring forward their net-zero plans by a decade, from 2050 to 2040.

“Leaders of developed countries must commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040. The limit they should all aim to respect.

“All big emitters make extra efforts to cut emissions and wealthier countries mobilise financial and technical resources to support emerging economies in a common effort to keep 1.5 degrees alive.”

What can I do?

Clean energy and technology is the loudest answer. The IPCC report said this can be exploited to avert the imminent climate change disaster.

“The power is in our hands,” BBC News says in its brilliant analysis of the IPCC report.

While it is easy to think that scientific reports on climate change are all about governments and energy policy, the IPCC has been moving to highlight the fact that the actions that people can take/ make by themselves make massive difference to the overall picture.

“We could cut 40 to 70 percent of projected 2050 emissions with end-use measures,” Greenpeace tells BBC.

“This includes shifting to plant-based diets, avoiding flights, building more walkable and bikeable cities.”

The IPCC report nudges governments towards reforming their transport, industry and energy systems so that making these low carbon choices becomes much easier and cheaper for individuals.

There’s no future for coal, oil and gas on a liveable planet, BBC says.

18 points for policymakers

IPCC has condensed the AR6 report into a version for policymakers which gives 18 main points to take note of.

Solomon Islands has its focal point to the IPCC, which is the Solomon Islands Meteorology division within the MECDM.

Let’s hope that these 18 points make their way to legislations and policies soon.

Observed Warming and its Causes – Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming, with global surface temperature reaching 1.1°C above 1850–1900 in 2011–2020. Global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase, with unequal historical and ongoing contributions arising from unsustainable energy use, land use and land-use change, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production across regions, between and within countries, and among individuals.

Observed Changes and Impacts – Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred. Human-caused climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. This has led to widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people. Vulnerable communities who have historically contributed the least to current climate change are disproportionately affected.

Current Progress in Adaptation and Gaps and Challenges – Adaptation planning and implementation has progressed across all sectors and regions, with documented benefits and varying effectiveness. Despite progress, adaptation gaps exist, and will continue to grow at current rates of implementation. Hard and soft limits to adaptation have been reached in some ecosystems and regions. Maladaptation is happening in some sectors and regions. Current global financial flows for adaptation are insufficient for, and constrain implementation of, adaptation options, especially in developing countries.

Current Mitigation Progress, Gaps and Challenges – Policies and laws addressing mitigation have consistently expanded since AR5. Global GHG emissions in 2030 implied by nationally determined contributions (NDCs) announced by October 2021 make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century and make it harder to limit warming below 2°C. There are gaps between projected emissions from implemented policies and those from NDCs and finance flows fall short of the levels needed to meet climate goals across all sectors and regions.

Future Climate Change – Continued greenhouse gas emissions will lead to increasing global warming, with the best estimate of reaching 1.5°C in the near term in considered scenarios and modelled pathways. Every increment of global warming will intensify multiple and concurrent hazards. Deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would lead to a discernible slowdown in global warming within around two decades, and also to discernible changes in atmospheric composition within a few years.

Climate Change Impacts 1 and Climate-Related Risks – For any given future warming level, many climate-related risks are higher than assessed in AR5, and projected long-term impacts are up to multiple times higher than currently observed. Risks and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages from climate change escalate with every increment of global warming. Climatic and non-climatic risks will increasingly interact, creating compound and cascading risks that are more complex and difficult to manage.

Likelihood and Risks of Unavoidable, Irreversible or Abrupt Changes – Some future changes are unavoidable and/or irreversible but can be limited by deep, rapid and sustained global greenhouse gas emissions reduction. The likelihood of abrupt and/or irreversible changes increases with higher global warming levels. Similarly, the probability of low-likelihood outcomes associated with potentially very large adverse impacts increases with higher global warming levels.

Adaptation Options and their Limits in a Warmer World – Adaptation options that are feasible and effective today will become constrained and less effective with increasing global warming. With increasing global warming, losses and damages will increase and additional human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits. Maladaptation can be avoided by flexible, multi-sectoral, inclusive, long-term planning and implementation of adaptation actions, with co-benefits to many sectors and systems.

Carbon Budgets and Net Zero Emissions – Limiting human-caused global warming requires net zero CO2 emissions. Cumulative carbon emissions until the time of reaching net-zero CO2 emissions and the level of greenhouse gas emission reductions this decade largely determine whether warming can be limited to 1.5°C or 2°C. Projected CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure without additional abatement would exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C.

Mitigation Pathways – All global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C (>67%), involve rapid and deep and, in most cases, immediate greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors this decade. Global net zero CO2 emissions are reached for these pathway categories, in the early 2050s and around the early 2070s, respectively.

Walande, inhabited beginning 1937, was a thriving artificial island along the coast of Small Malaita, which could host 1,000 people at any one time. A decade ago its inhabitants relocated to the mainland after sea level rise became too much. (Pictured) House posts jutting out of the sea are what’s left of the original Walande settlement. (right) Seawall built with funds from UNDP’s GEF-SGP programme along the coast of the new settlement to shield against sea-level rise. Photo by Teiba Mamu/ SGP SI.

Overshoot: Exceeding a Warming Level and Returning – If warming exceeds a specified level such as 1.5°C, it could gradually be reduced again by achieving and sustaining net negative global CO2 emissions. This would require additional deployment of carbon dioxide removal, compared to pathways without overshoot, leading to greater feasibility and sustainability concerns. Overshoot entails adverse impacts, some irreversible, and additional risks for human and natural systems, all growing with the magnitude and duration of overshoot.

Urgency of Near-Term Integrated Climate Action – Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. Climate resilient development integrates adaptation and mitigation to advance sustainable development for all, and is enabled by increased international cooperation including improved access to adequate financial resources, particularly for vulnerable regions, sectors and groups, and inclusive governance and coordinated policies. The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.

The Benefits of Near-Term Action – Deep, rapid and sustained mitigation and accelerated implementation of adaptation actions in this decade would reduce projected losses and damages for humans and ecosystems, and deliver many co-benefits, especially for air quality and health. Delayed mitigation and adaptation action would lock-in high-emissions infrastructure, raise risks of stranded assets and cost-escalation, reduce feasibility, and increase losses and damages. Near-term actions involve high up-front investments and potentially disruptive changes that can be lessened by a range of enabling policies.

Mitigation and Adaptation Options across Systems – Rapid and far-reaching transitions across all sectors and systems are necessary to achieve deep and sustained emissions reductions and secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. These system transitions involve a significant upscaling of a wide portfolio of mitigation and adaptation options. Feasible, effective, and low-cost options for mitigation and adaptation are already available, with differences across systems and regions.

Synergies and Trade-Offs with Sustainable Development – Accelerated and equitable action in mitigating and adapting to climate change impacts is critical to sustainable development. Mitigation and adaptation actions have more synergies than trade-offs with Sustainable Development Goals. Synergies and trade-offs depend on context and scale of implementation.

Equity and Inclusion – Prioritising equity, climate justice, social justice, inclusion and just transition processes can enable adaptation and ambitious mitigation actions and climate resilient development. Adaptation outcomes are enhanced by increased support to regions and people with the highest vulnerability to climatic hazards. Integrating climate adaptation into social protection programs improves resilience. Many options are available for reducing emission-intensive consumption, including through behavioural and lifestyle changes, with co-benefits for societal well-being.

Governance and Policies – Effective climate action is enabled by political commitment, well-aligned multilevel governance, institutional frameworks, laws, policies and strategies and enhanced access to finance and technology. Clear goals, coordination across multiple policy domains, and inclusive governance processes facilitate effective climate action. Regulatory and economic instruments can support deep emissions reductions and climate resilience if scaled up and applied widely. Climate resilient development benefits from drawing on diverse knowledge.

Finance, Technology and International Cooperation – Finance, technology and international cooperation are critical enablers for accelerated climate action. If climate goals are to be achieved, both adaptation and mitigation financing would need to increase many-fold. There is sufficient global capital to close the global investment gaps but there are barriers to redirect capital to climate action. Enhancing technology innovation systems is key to accelerate the widespread adoption of technologies and practices. Enhancing international cooperation is possible through multiple channels.

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