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A new comprehensive report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessing the latest state of global climate science reveals that global temperatures now hover around 1.1°C above preindustrial levels and our actions have already irreversibly altered the Earth.
Though it’s still possible to limit warming to 1.5° Celsius and avoid even more devastating changes to our environment, we can only do so by acting immediately and aggressively to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Over 200 scientists assessed scientific advancements in recent years and helped bring together the findings of over 14,000 papers to produce this report. Here are the key takeaways.
We are already seeing the impacts of the human-caused climate crisis as global temperatures climb ever closer to the 1.5°C mark—the milestone often touted as the point where natural systems begin to collapse, triggering permanent changes and transforming life as we know it. This change has led to more frequent and extreme weather like severe wildfires, flooding, record-breaking heat, and more here in the United States and around the world. Sea levels continue to rise, and scientists cannot exclude a multi-feet increase in the next century if we do not drastically cut emissions. As global temperatures continue to creep upward, we'll see these impacts more regularly and with potentially greater devastation.
The difference between a world with 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming is stark, but the opportunity to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C is scientifically still possible. We just need the political will for urgent and scaled-up action to reduce emissions right now. We can achieve this through rapid and deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and protection and the restoration of nature.
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions can help prevent the most extreme impacts of a warming planet, reduce pollution, improve air quality, and benefit our health in myriad ways. Every fraction of a degree of additional warming matters—and so does every choice we make from here on out. The report lays out a range of potential futures before us based on what we decide to do today. The extent to which we cut greenhouse gas emissions now will directly affect the vulnerability of current and future generations and the wide array of the planet’s plant and animal life.
The opportunity to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C is very slim, but scientifically still possible if we take urgent and strong action. The report confirms that leaders must immediately raise the ambition of their short and long-term country pledges under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Policymakers must act on the overwhelming evidence of dangers we currently face and will continue to confront if the world fails to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. This is the moment to act.