Our colleagues Brady Dennis and Sarah Kaplan spent hours poring over the more than 3,500-page document, which is full of devastating details about the severe — and profoundly unequal — toll of the climate crisis on living things.
For an in-depth look at the report, we highly recommend reading Brady and Sarah’s piece. But if you’re short on time today, here are five main things to know about the panel’s report:
1. Some climate effects are already baked in
Humanity has pumped more than a trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the late 19th century, fueling an average global temperature rise of more than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to preindustrial levels.
Even if those emissions were to stop tomorrow, they have already set in motion some unavoidable effects across the globe.
Fish are dying in oceans that have heated up and become more acidic. Climate disasters such as supercharged wildfires, hurricanes and floods have claimed lives and ravaged communities.
Even if humanity meets the more ambitious goal of the Paris agreement — limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels — scientists project the demise of most coral reefs and the irreversible loss of glaciers and polar ice by the end of the century.
2. It’s not too late to prevent some of the potential suffering
Despite these irreversible effects, the report emphasizes that humanity still has time to act to stave off more suffering in the future.
In addition to mitigation, which involves making deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, scientists say humanity must make significant investments in adaptation, which entails coping with the consequences of a warming Earth.
For example, investments in infrastructure would reduce the damage inflicted by extreme weather. And investments in public health would prevent the spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, which have flourished as the world warms and mosquitoes roam beyond their current habitats.
Scientists estimate that for every dollar spent on resilience and adaptation, countries could save at least $4 over time.
3. Warming is widening inequities between rich and poor nations
Many developing countries have released little carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, yet they are most vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. The report makes clear that these inequities will persist as the world warms.
Even under moderate scenarios for sea-level rise, the coastlines of most Pacific Island nations would be flooded. And under the worst-case scenario for global temperature rise, Africa — which is historically responsible for less than 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — would see a 118-fold increase in exposure to extreme heat. By contrast, heat exposure in Europe would increase only fourfold.
So far, wealthy countries have failed to fulfill their promise to provide $100 billion annually to help poor nations green their economies and adapt to climate effects. Developed nations will probably face intense pressure to deliver on this pledge at the next U.N. climate summit in Egypt in November.
4. The climate crisis is intertwined with the biodiversity crisis
Global warming is already threatening plants and animals by shifting seasonal weather patterns and intensifying habitat-destroying disasters. If global temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), 10 percent of all plant and animal species could face a high risk of extinction, the report says.
At 3.2 Celsius (5.8 Fahrenheit), a quarter of all salamanders could go extinct. By 4 Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit), half of the Amazon rainforest could be lost.
5. The time to act is now
For all of the sobering statistics in the report, its overarching message is not one of hopelessness, but of urgency to act, our colleagues Brady and Sarah write.
Humanity still has a limited window to overhaul the way energy is generated, the way cities are designed and the way food is grown — changes that ultimately could save trillions of dollars and millions of lives.
“These are projections, they are not predictions,” Patrick Gonzalez, a lead author of the report and a climate scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, told our colleagues of the findings. “It’s all based on humans and our actions. The future is something we can change.”
Supreme Court to hear case that could limit EPA’s climate authority
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to mandate broad changes to the power sector, the nation’s second largest source of greenhouse gases, The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes and Dino Grandoni report. The case, which was brought by coal mining companies and Republican-led states, is set to have major implications for the future of U.S. climate policy.
West Virginia v. EPA comes before a court that’s even more conservative than the one that stopped President Barack Obama‘s plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan, in 2016. Many of the conservative justices have voiced suspicion that federal agencies are overstepping their authority without explicit congressional approval.
Climate advocates fear that the Supreme Court could limit the EPA’s ability to cut emissions from power plants before there are even regulations to review, as the Biden administration is not slated to reveal a climate plan for the power sector until this summer. But West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), who is leading the lawsuit, said in a recent interview with The Post that the court should not hesitate to rule before its term ends.
Russian official apologizes for war in Ukraine during major U.N. climate meeting
The head of the Russian delegation to the IPCC apologized for the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine during a virtual meeting Sunday, saying that “those who know what is happening fail to find any justification for the attack,” according to two participants who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the closed negotiations, The Post’s Sarah Kaplan reports.
Oleg Anisimov’s remarks, which were an unusual public rebuke of the war by a Russian government official, came as scientists and officials from 195 nations worked to finalize the IPCC report yesterday. His apology followed an impassioned speech by his Ukrainian counterpart, Svitlana Krakovska, who linked the invasion of her country to global warming.
“Human-induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots – fossil fuels and our dependence on them,” one delegate recalled Krakovska saying.
“We will not surrender in Ukraine,” Krakovska added. “And we hope the world will not surrender in building a climate-resilient future.”
BP says it will divest $14 billion stake in Russian oil giant
British oil giant BP said Sunday it is “exiting” its $14 billion stake in Russian oil company Rosneft over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, marking one of the biggest moves yet from the Western business world to cut ties with the Kremlin, The Post’s Jeanne Whalen reports. BP also said its current and former chief executive, Bernard Looney and Bob Dudley, have resigned from Rosneft’s board.
Britain’s business and energy secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, had reportedly pressured Looney to sever the Rosneft relationship. The Russian government owns about 40 percent of Rosneft, which is chaired by Igor Sechin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
BP had operated in Russia for more than 30 years and had a 19.75 percent stake in Rosneft, which accounted for a third of its oil and gas production. It’s unclear whether BP will find a buyer for its shares or simply walk away from them.
Offshore wind lease sale raises more than $4 billion, setting a record
The Interior Department on Friday netted a record $4.37 billion from the auction of six offshore wind leases off the coast of New York and New Jersey, a major step toward fulfilling President Biden‘s clean energy goals.
The auction of more than 488,000 acres in the New York Bight, an area of the Atlantic Ocean south of Long Island, marked the first offshore wind lease sale under Biden. Once turbines are constructed and operating, they are expected to generate enough electricity to power nearly 2 million homes.
The sale sparked a bidding war among more than a dozen companies that lasted three days. Leases were ultimately sold at about $10,700 per acre, more than 10 times the previous record of $1,000 per acre. The Interior Department said it was the highest-grossing competitive offshore energy auction in U.S. history, including oil and gas lease sales.
Ali Zaidi, deputy national climate adviser, said in a statement that the auction was a “big step toward cleaner electricity and a stronger domestic energy sector.”
Here’s what we’ve got on tap for this week
On Tuesday, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands will hold a legislative hearing on five bills. The Senate Energy and National Resources Committee on Tuesday will also hold a meeting to consider pending legislation. Later on Tuesday, President Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address.
On Wednesday, the House Space, Science and Technology Environment Subcommittee will hold a hearing on nature-based infrastructure. Also on Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about his department’s implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure law.
On Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s recent move to consider how pipelines and other natural gas projects affect climate change. All five commissioners will testify.
Watching Sonya at the Orphaned Wildlife Center is a nice break from today’s intense news.