No alternative to slashing carbon emissions – UN scientists say

Reducing emissions sharply will mean challenging but more manageable consequences

Dr Debra Roberts,  chairwoman of one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working groups  said there’s no replacement for ‘bold, ambitious mitigation’ against climate change. Photograph: Getty Images

Dr Debra Roberts, chairwoman of one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working groups said there’s no replacement for ‘bold, ambitious mitigation’ against climate change. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Scientists behind the latest UN report on climate disruption, which reveals accelerating destruction of oceans, glaciers and ice caps due to global heating, said there was no alternative to slashing carbon emissions – or watch cities vanish under rising seas, rivers run dry and marine life collapse.

Dr Debra Roberts, chairwoman of one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working groups which drew up the report, said it “underscores bold, ambitious mitigation. There’s no replacement for that, but the report also underscores the need for adaptation” to be able to withstand the worst predicted effects.

IPCC chairman Hoesung Lee, said: “The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people. But we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways – for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and wellbeing, for culture and identity.”

In spite of the report’s stark findings, he added: “If we reduce emissions sharply, consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable.”

In response to the report, 52 prominent non-governmental organisations called on EU leaders to show leadership by acting to protect the ocean, as well as urgently cutting emissions.

“The ocean plays a critical role in human health and the health of the planet. It buffers us against the worst impacts of climate breakdown, generates the oxygen we breathe, and provides sustenance and livelihoods for people across the world. The ocean protects and provides for us all,” they said in a letter.

Largest habitat on earth

“The climate crisis is not limited to land. There is much that can and must be done to protect the ocean, the largest habitat on Earth, so that it can continue to protect us. We urgently need to boost the ocean’s chances of survival in the face of climate breakdown by removing the stressors that are within our reach,” the letter added.

Ending overfishing and protecting marine areas were essential actions “that will protect habitats and biodiversity, replenish fish populations and marine food webs, improve the cycling and sequestering of carbon, and build ocean resilience to withstand dangerous climate change”.

“The ocean cannot infinitely support our current way of life if we keep piling on pressure while demanding that it produce the oxygen we breathe, feed us, and absorb excess heat and CO2.”

“The climate crisis is also an ocean crisis,” said Sofia Tsenikli, senior strategist at Greenpeace International. The EU and its member states must “ditch fossil fuels and submit plans to stay below 1.5 degrees by next year”.

Christian Aid’s global climate lead Dr Kat Kramer said: “Not only are fossil fuels a source of ubiquitous plastic waste, they are the main source of carbon that is killing coral reefs through global heating and ocean acidification.

“These stunning ecosystems are where some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet resides, and at least 500 million people globally rely on coral reefs for food, coastal protection and livelihoods.”

Yet more than 99 per cent of them were set to decline with a 2-degree increase in warming, “and we’re currently on track for at least 3 degrees”.