The deadline to make dramatic reductions in climate-heating pollutants is closing fast, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and cities and transportation agencies will both need to transform themselves dramatically in the next decade to avoid the worst effects of a heating climate.
Earlier this month, the IPCC published the third and final volume of its latest climate assessment report. While volume one synthesized the most recent physical science on climate change, and a dour second volume surveyed the severe impacts and disasters already underway from a heating climate, the third volume focuses on what humanity needs to do to curtail climate pollution and limit warming to 1.5° to 2° C above 20th-century temperatures.
The IPCC offers policymakers a long menu of policy ideas that could help society meet that goal. But progress to date has been so sluggish, and the need to dramatically reduce emissions so urgent, that policymakers will need to adopt most of the report’s recommendations, and on a blisteringly fast timeline, while also forcefully turning away from fossil-fueled industries and energy-inefficient transportation systems.
As the third volume’s executive summary puts it:
“Continuing investments in carbon-intensive activities at scale will heighten the multitude of risks associated with climate change and impede societal and industrial transformation towards low carbon development. Meeting the long–term temperature objective in the Paris Agreement therefore implies a rapid turn to an accelerating decline of greenhouse gas emissions towards ‘net zero’, which is implausible without urgent and ambitious action at all scales.”
Many of the necessary mitigation strategies will involve major changes in the ways we generate electricity, manage forests, and practice agriculture.