Latest IPCC Climate Report Bleak, Giving up Not an Option

Statements by Dr. Kristina Dahl, principal climate, and Dr. Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and policy director for the Climate and Energy Program

Published Mar 20, 2023

After a meeting of world scientists and governments in Interlaken, Switzerland, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major new climate report that is the culmination of the organization’s sixth assessment cycle. The Synthesis Report is accompanied by a Summary for Policymakers that was approved and adopted by world governments. These reports synthesize the findings from thousands of pages of IPCC reports released over the past five years. They highlight the realities of the climate crisis today, the dangers of global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and the solutions available to limit climate change and its harms.

Below is a statement by Dr. Kristina Dahl, principal climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“It’s been almost 33 years since the first IPCC report was issued. Instead of triggering a global wakeup call to policymakers around the world, global emissions have only increased since then—by a whopping 54%. That’s in no small part due to the fossil fuel industry’s deep-pocketed opposition to climate action at any level and its unfettered access to elected officials. As a result, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or less will, at this point, be exceedingly difficult. But now is not the time—nor will it ever be the time—to throw in the towel. There is simply too much at stake.

“While there will be changes that we can’t prevent, such as the loss of a certain amount of land to sea level rise, there are many impacts we can and must still limit by quickly and steeply reducing emissions. To secure the livable future that children around the world deserve, we must double down, clear-eyed about the challenges ahead, ratchet up pressure on governments, and break the power of the fossil fuel industry.”

Below is a statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“Today’s report underscores that we do have many solutions to drive a transformative shift from a polluting, fossil fuel-based energy system to a clean and healthier one, and that scaled-up investments in climate resilience are also vital to address impacts that are now unavoidable. Yet these commonsense, urgently needed steps are not being taken by governments at the speed and scale required.

“The terrible human toll and economic costs of the climate crisis are mounting around the world. Communities in the United States are grappling with flooding, heatwaves, drought and intensified hurricanes; people in Pakistan are still reeling from devastating floods last year; and millions of people in the Horn of Africa are on the verge of famine. This latest IPCC report makes clear that these kinds of dangers will worsen as the climate warms, with people living in poverty bearing the brunt.

“Inaction from policymakers—especially those in richer nations—and the underhanded tactics of fossil fuel companies are the main obstacles to the bold and necessary climate action the world desperately needs. Their unconscionable failures now put us at grave risk of surpassing a 1.5-degree global temperature increase, beyond which science shows untenable and irreversible climate impacts will mount.

“It is clear that current emissions-reduction pledges and the actions taken by countries so far are grossly insufficient. It’s past time to sharply phase down fossil fuels and transition to clean energy. Furthermore, richer nations must step up to take responsibility for funding emissions reductions and climate adaptation measures in low-income countries to avoid deepening the inequitable toll from climate change.”

For more information, please see the following blogs:

• “Can We Still Limit Global Warming to 1.5°C? Here’s What the Latest Science Says” by Dr. Dahl

• “The Latest IPCC Report Will Make You Sad. And Mad. Don’t Give Up!” by Dr. Cleetus

• “Big Oil’s Denial and Delay Is Endangering Our Future” by Dr. Delta Merner, lead scientist for the Science Hub for Climate Litigation at UCS