As the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) once again spells out dire predictions for the planet unless immediate action is taken, UN experts have also offered a glimmer of hope.
Only immediate and ambitious climate action will maintain global temperatures are rising by 1.5C – a benchmark agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement – said the report, released on Monday. Otherwise, there could be extreme climate change with severe impacts on people, wildlife and ecosystems.
Still, there are solutions that could make a difference, the report suggests.
“Putting the right policies, infrastructure and technologies in place to enable changes in our lifestyles and behaviors can lead to a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” said Priyadarshi Shukla, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III, and a professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, who specializes in energy and environmental modeling and policy, said in a press release.
“This offers significant untapped potential”, to reduce the overall rise in global temperatures.
Suck CO2 from the atmosphere
Global warming is caused by too much carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities. Eliminating it is important to combat climate change. Indeed, the IPCC report states that removing carbon dioxide is essential to limit warming to 2°C or 1.5°C. This can be done through methods that include reforestation, ocean fertilization and “enhanced weathering” – the process of spreading crushed rock over large areas.
CO2 could also be removed through technology such as Direct Air Capture with Carbon Storage (DACCS) which uses chemical processes to separate and store CO2.
However, the effectiveness of DACCS has been and some critics say such CO2 removal could undermine incentives to move away from fossil fuels.
Sea salt in the clouds? Pumping aerosols into the sky?
The IPCC report also considered proposals to increase the reflection of solar radiation in space. It indicates that solar radiation modification (SRM) cannot be the primary policy response to climate change and is, at best, complementary to the broader goal of achieving sustainable net-zero CO2 emission levels. worldwide.
Some proposed SRM methods include:
- Injecting reflective aerosol particles, or a gas that turns into aerosols, directly into the stratosphere.
- Spraying sea salt or other particles into sea clouds, making them more reflective.
- Whitewashing of roofs and covering of glaciers with reflective tarpaulins.
However, the IPCC states in its report that “their potential to reduce risks or introduce new risks…is not well understood”.
Switch to solar and wind power as costs drop
Switching to renewable energy sources could be much easier now, as unit costs for solar, wind and batteries have fallen rapidly over the past four years, according to the report.
For example, from 2015 to 2020, solar and wind electricity costs fell 56% and 45%, respectively, while battery prices fell 64%, according to the report. Moreover, in many contexts, solar and wind energy are now competing with fossil fuels, according to the report.
According to the report, electric vehicles are the fastest growing segment of the automotive industry, and together with electric transit vehicles, they can significantly reduce emissions, the report says.
The wealthy can help, and so can social influencers
While those who are wealthy contribute disproportionately to rising emissions, they could also become role models for low-carbon lifestyles, in part by investing in low-carbon businesses and advocating for strict climate policies, the report says.
Social influencers and opinion leaders can also increase adoption of low-carbon technologies, behaviors and lifestyles, he said.