IPCC: Politicians Are Failing to Prevent Climate Collapse

New York Needs to Adopt Stronger Climate Goals than the CLCPA

Mark Dunlea, Green Education and Legal Fund, author Putting Out the Planetary Fire

The new IPCC report once again makes clear that the world’s political and economic leaders are falling far short of the actions needed to avoid climate collapse, saying that the world will hit the 1.5 C target within a decade. The IPCC added that “rapid and far-reaching transitions are necessary to achieve deep and sustained emissions reductions and secure a livable and sustainable future for all.” The NY Times reported that exceeding the 1.5 degrees target means that “the impacts of catastrophic heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures and species extinction become significantly harder for humanity to handle.”

To be clear, while many politicians and even climate activists like to congratulate themselves for things such as the recent federal IRA (Inflation Reduction Action) or the four-year old CLCPA climate law in NY, they both fall far short of what is needed. And promises and goals made by politicians are usually more hot air than actual action. There is no sense that our governments are acting as if they are responding to a climate emergency.

The IPCC report highlights that the problem is political and economic, not science. We have the technology to get rid of greenhouse gas emissions and move to a clear energy future. What we lack is the will to make it happen, including the will to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.

It is also important to recognize that the IPCC is far from cutting-edge science, instead reflecting the practice of reaching what is too often the lowest common denominator of “scientific agreement.” Such agreement then gets further watered down by the need to get sign-off from the UN member nations, including fossil-fuel-states like the US, Russia, China, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia.

Inside Climate News reports that “new studies on the Arctic, oceans and tropical rainforests suggested that climate impacts are becoming more frequent and intensifying ‘faster than projected’ by the IPCC, leading to concerns that the reports don’t adequately reflect the growing risks.”

“The 1.5-degree limit is achievable, but it will take a quantum leap in climate action,” said António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, said. Mr. Guterres called on countries to stop building new coal plants and to stop approving new oil and gas projects, such as the Willow Project recently approved by President Biden in the Alaska Wilderness.

It is also important to understand the emission reduction goals promoted by the IPCC (e.g., 50% by 2030, slightly faster than prior reports) will, according to the IPCC, fall far short of keeping global warming below the 1.5 C degree target. (Note that the IPCC emission reduction goals are faster than is what in the CLCPA, such as 40% by 2030.) Instead of promoting the needed emission cuts, the IPCC is relying on the development of carbon capture technologies to pull back carbon levels in the atmosphere to a safer level once the targeted is exceeded, despite the failure of such technologies to be viable after decades and tens of billions of dollars of investments.

Friends of the Earth International commented: “It’s very alarming to see carbon dioxide removal featuring in the IPCC report. We can’t rely on risky, untested and downright dangerous removals technologies just because big polluters want us to stick to the status quo. A fair and fast phaseout of oil, gas and coal needs to happen in this decade, and it can, with the right political will. We must heed the IPCC’s urgent messages, without falling into the trap of assuming that carbon dioxide removal will save the day.”

Hemantha Withanage, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, added: “In my country, Sri Lanka, the impacts of climate change are being felt now. We have no time to chase fairy tales like carbon removal technologies to suck carbon out of the air.” The IPCC admits that “Overshoot entails adverse impacts, some irreversible, and additional risks for human and natural systems, all growing with the magnitude and duration of overshoot.”

One area where NY needs to adopt faster emission reduction goals is in the cap-and-trade program that Governor Hochul and state Democrats intend to adopt. GELF has proposed emission reduction targets of at least 70% by 2030 (100% would be better) with a starting price of at least $60 a ton (quickly ramping up to the $121 a ton that the state DEC estimates as the social cost of carbon.)

On Tuesday, March 21, more than one hundred demonstrations are taking place across the country (including several in New York) to stop banks from continuing to finance the fossil fuel industry. According to the Stop the Money Pipeline, “since the Paris Agreement was adopted, Wall Street banks have provided $1.4 trillion to the fossil fuel industry. Big asset managers are the world’s largest investors in coal, oil, and gas. Insurance companies provide insurance for new fossil fuel projects without which they could not be built.”

The new IPCC report once again makes clear that the world’s politicians have not halted the mad dash into the hellfire of global warming. It is a crime against humanity for banks and other financial institutions to continue to fund the fossil fuel industry.