20 March 2023
A group of United Nations scientists warned Monday that humanity is close to its last chance to prevent the worst of climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the world will need to cut carbon pollution and fossil fuel use by nearly two-thirds by the year 2035. The scientists called for an end to new fossil fuel exploration. And they urged countries to stop using coal, oil and gas by 2040.
"Humanity is on thin ice — and that ice is melting fast," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. "Our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once."
Guterres not only called for "no new coal" but also called for ending its use in rich countries by 2030 and in poor countries by 2040. He called for carbon-free electricity generation in the developed world by 2035. That is the year that nations have to come up with goals for pollution reduction under the Paris climate agreement.
Exceeding Paris agreement limit
The 2015 Paris climate agreement set a goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. But the world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius.
The scientists told the Associated Press that this is likely the last warning they will be able to make about the 1.5-degree mark. They added their next reports will likely come after Earth has either passed the 1.5 mark or is on its way to passing it soon.
Many scientists say hitting 1.5 degrees is inevitable -- or sure to happen.
"We are pretty much locked into 1.5," said Malte Meinshausen, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. But the concern, he added, is whether the temperature keeps rising from there.
After 1.5 degrees "the risks are starting to pile on," said report co-writer Francis X. Johnson. He is a climate, land and policy scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute.
The IPCC's latest report said the risks include loss of species and coral reefs, irreversible melting of ice sheets, and several meters of rising sea levels.
The scientists said that to stay under the warming limit, the world needs to cut 60 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, compared with 2019 levels. That is a new target not included in the six reports issued since 2018.
"We are not on the right track but it's not too late," said report co-writer and water scientist Aditi Mukherji.
An earlier IPCC report detailed how the harms would be much worse if the planet experiences more than 1.5 degrees of warming.
In the new report, scientists say continuing the use of fossil fuel to power existing or proposed infrastructure will warm the Earth at least 2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times.
Dipak Dasgupta is a co-writer of the report and a climate economist at The Energy and Resources Institute in India. He said because the report is based on data from a few years ago, the measurements about fossil fuel projects do not include the increase in coal and natural gas use following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Hoesung Lee is the IPCC chief scientist. He said the report contains "a message of hope in addition to those various scientific findings."
Lee said, "It's up to each government to find the best solution."
"The possibility is still there," Lee said.
I'm Ashley Thompson.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Associated Press news reports.
Words in This Story
fossil fuel - n. fuel such as coal, oil or gas that is formed in the earth
pile on - phrasal verb. add something in large amount
species - n. a group of animals or plants that are similar
coral reef - n. a long line of coral that lies in warm, shallow water
irreversible - adj. impossible to change back to previous condition or state
on the right track - idiom. following a course that is likely to result in success
infrastructure - n. equipment, roads and bridges that are needed for a country, area,... to function properly