We have the tools to slow the warming


Maybe because I’m a child of immigrants. Or because I’m a Virgo. I shudder at questions about climate hope. I also resent the deception that the planet is about to become uninhabitable.

I’m the practical type. So the pressing question for me is: What can be done to slow climate change? Tell me what is possible. Tell me what’s stopping you.

That’s what I find most valuable in the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week. He tells us that the world already has many of the tools needed to move away from fossil fuels and rapidly slow climate change.

In other words, it can be done. It just isn’t done.

(The previous IPCC report in February focused on efforts to adapt or live with the reality of climate change. wrote about it here. The panel publishes periodic reports, and this latest report is about reduction or how to reduce emissions that cause global temperatures to rise.)

Organized by the United Nations, this panel consists of 278 experts from all over the world representing a range of disciplines such as meteorology, economics, political science and others. Discussions on the full text of the report continued until Sunday, delaying its official public release by several hours. What they published was the lowest common denominator they could agree on. It’s not controversial.

I was struck by the contrast between the actions the authors say is now possible to move away from fossil fuels, and what the fossil fuel industry demanded during Russia’s war in Ukraine: More oil, more gas, more production and sales of coal.

“Decades of failure in global leadership, combined with the fossil fuel companies’ single-headed focus on profits and unsustainable consumption habits in the world’s richest households, are putting our planet in jeopardy,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director at the Union of Concerned. Scientists said in a statement.

Here are the key points from the report:

The technology is (mostly) there.

The panel makes one thing clear: We know how to move away from fossil fuels for electricity and transportation, the two major categories of human activity that are among the biggest sources of emissions.

My colleagues Raymond Zhong and Brad Plumer briefly explained in his articles in the report. “Gasoline-powered cars can be replaced by electric vehicles charged by low-carbon grids,” they wrote. “Gas-burning furnaces in homes can be replaced with electric heat pumps. Steel mills can switch to electric furnaces that melt scrap instead of burning coal.”

We also know how to use less energy. We can help people get out of cars by promoting clean, fast public transport. We can help people lower their energy bills with insulation. We can reuse raw materials. All this does not happen automatically. It requires policy changes and public investment.

We don’t yet know how to do some of the more difficult things, like building battery-powered long-haul airplanes. However, there is a lot of action we can take right away as we develop solutions for some of the more difficult problems.

Green farming, which produces about 22 percent of emissions, is also difficult. But there are some simple levers: Stop mowing forests to grow food and stop throwing away so much food. These are corporate and government policies that affect the rest of us on a daily basis. For example, do your local supermarkets donate expired food or simply throw it away? Does your municipality facilitate composting?

Renewable energy is growing and getting cheaper.

Clean energy technology has progressed much faster than expected and has become much cheaper and faster than expected. (The price of wind turbines, for example, has fallen by more than half since 2010.)

one study published last week by an independent think tank Research firm Ember has found that clean energy sources — mostly nuclear and hydro, but also wind and solar power — produce 38 percent of the electricity the world uses in 2021.

Europe is leading. And the Russian occupation is encouraging many European lawmakers to call for accelerating the installation of renewable energy.

Many countries, including the United States, still burn coal to generate electricity. However, plans to expand coal plants around the world have been delayed. This is largely because, as the IPCC tells us, in some cases it is more economical to build renewable energy infrastructure than coal plants.

In fact, we have a better chance of slowing climate change than a few years ago.

Emissions from fossil fuels grew more slowly in the 2010s than in the 2000s. This means that a slower rise in global base temperature is predicted – and as Ray and Brad write, it means the world has a “much better chance of avoiding some of the worst global warming scenarios.”

This is important to note. When the Paris agreement came together in 2015, the average global temperature by the end of this century was on track to warm 4 degrees Celsius, or 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit. If all countries meet their current emissions reduction commitments (and this is highly likely), the world will be on the path to warming by around 2.7 degrees Celsius. Is this enough to avert some truly frightening climate consequences, including widespread crop famine and the flooding of coastal cities? No. But it is forward movement.

Abandoning fossil fuels is costly, but sticking to them is more costly.

Shifting the global economy from coal to renewables will not happen by itself. It needs government subsidies to promote renewable sources rather than the currently prevailing fossil fuels. The IPCC says governments and companies may need to invest three to six times the $600 billion currently spent promoting clean energy and reducing emissions.

Not doing so will likely be more expensive. The panel’s forecasts say countries will become poorer if they don’t act to switch to renewable energy sources, and that forecast doesn’t even take into account the economic benefits of improving public health and reducing extreme weather disasters.

Sudden turn of an oil tanker: A ship loaded with a million barrels of Russian oil apparently sailed for Philadelphia in the middle of the Atlantic. lost its buyer.

Farhana Yamin calls her life “a dance between the inside and the outside.” His experience as an insider goes back more than 30 years. Yamin, 57, was an internationally renowned environmental lawyer and one of the key architects of the Paris climate agreement. But after the deal, he said, when Donald J. Trump came to power in the United States and other countries, his faith in institutions began to crumble as he continually delayed action on climate change. Thus, Yamin shifted his focus to grassroots activism. “I just learned that we can’t trust lawyers and diplomats,” she said. You can do read her story here.

Thank you for reading. We’ll be back on Friday.

Manuela Andreoni, Claire O’Neill, and Douglas Alteen contributed to Climate Forward.

Contact us climateforward@nytimes.com. We read every message and reply to many!


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