The U.N. expert panel that issues the world’s climate science reports has warned that the decarbonisation of the global economy will take longer than previously forecast. The report says policymakers will have to improve policies to help ordinary people better adapt to the effects of climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the world’s fossil fuel reserves, which remain unburned after any transition away from fossil fuels, are currently “of uncertain economic and social value”. For example, methane from unburned fossil fuel reserves is estimated to be four times as powerful as carbon dioxide when it is released into the atmosphere.
While ignoring the huge benefit from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this analysis sets out a path for addressing the considerable economic uncertainty and risks associated with burning the “unburnable oil and gas that currently dominates the world economy.”
The best we can expect is that consumption will decline over time. However, the potential for emissions reductions is tempered by growing evidence of the methane leaks that can occur when gas is burned. Indeed, the IPCC report warns that methane emissions from natural gas “continues to exceed expectations”, and amounts far greater than initial estimates.
Other hazards, such as increased solar storms and the drastic weather events associated with extreme heat, have also contributed to global climate risks, it says.
The report also identifies population risks as being far greater than generally recognised. The recent population boom in low-lying areas such as Bangladesh, Niger and the Maldives could lead to displacements of up to 250 million people by 2050.
“In light of the well-documented risks associated with the vulnerability of populations to climate change impacts, particularly when populations experience higher risks, there is an urgent need to more rigorously calculate how vulnerable vulnerable communities are to climate impacts and incorporate mechanisms to address the increased risks of the increased vulnerability,” the report says.