On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest, highly anticipated report on the state of Earth’s climate. The report, which updates the previous effort from eight years ago, represents the collective assessment by several hundred scientists from around the world of efforts to keep global temperatures from rising to levels that would trigger catastrophic changes in Earth’s environment and weather conditions. Spoiler alert: It’s bad.
The report rules out any possibility of preventing the 1.5-degrees-Celsius rise in global temperatures that was the most ambitious target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. That threshold will be reached by 2040, no matter what mitigation efforts are adopted now. Some of the changes in climate and weather patterns currently on display will be irreversible. And while it will certainly make no difference to climate change deniers, the report states that the “unequivocal” cause of the rise in global temperatures is human activity, compared to the 2013 report’s “near certainty” of human causality.
But while the report makes for grim reading, it also offers some hope, however bare. In a best-case scenario, the rise in temperatures will level off at 1.5 degrees C, avoiding the most extreme effects of global warming. That would require a successful planetary effort that reaches “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, while also removing significant amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.