IPCC Report: Fossil Fuels Should Be 'Phased Out by 2100'
Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—the world body for assessing the science related to climate change—released the final component of its Fifth Assessment Report, the Synthesis Report in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The IPCC report states that "Human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, with impacts observed on all continents. If left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."
The report details how "options are available to adapt to climate change and implementing stringent mitigations activities can ensure that the impacts of climate change remain within a manageable range, creating a brighter and more sustainable future."
The Synthesis Report was produced by more than 800 scientists and is the most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever undertaken.
“We have the means to limit climate change,” said R. K. Pachauri, chair of the IPCC. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”
The report concludes that:
- emissions of greenhouse gases and other anthropogenic drivers are the dominant reason for observed warming since the mid-20th century.
- renewables will have to grow from their current 30 percent share to 80 percent of the power sector by 2050.
- fossil fuel power generation without carbon capture and storage technology would need to be "phased out almost entirely by 2100."
- impacts of climate change are felt on all continents.
- continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause more warming and long-lasting changes to the climate, "increasing the likelihood of widespread and profound impacts affecting all levels of society and the natural world."
- climate risks are a particular challenge for the least developed countries.
“This landmark report makes it absolutely clear: we must rapidly transition to a clean energy economy free from dirty fossil fuels, and we must do it now," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. "In the starkest terms ever used, the scientific community is looking world leaders directly in the eye and demanding that they wake up. To fight global poverty, sustain stable governments and societies, and maintain a livable planet, all findings indicate that we should kick fossil fuels to the curb. The silver lining to the report is that it recognizes clean energy climate solutions are affordable and ready to deploy."
Nations have collectively agreed that beyond two degrees of warming, the risks posed by climate change could be irreversible.
“The scientific case for prioritizing action on climate change is clearer than ever,” Pachauri said. “We have little time before the window of opportunity to stay within 2ºC of warming closes. To keep a good chance of staying below 2ºC, and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40 to 70 percent globally between 2010 and 2050, falling to zero or below by 2100. We have that opportunity, and the choice is in our hands.”
Today's report, the clearest guide yet from scientists on why we need to reduce climate risk, says that if all governments work to cut emissions, we can still keep the risks of climate change low. With the right policies we can prevent dangerous climate change, allow ecosystems to adapt and ensure countries can develop sustainably, the IPCC concludes.
"As momentum for global action builds, this report reminds us that the impacts of climate change are dangerous and far-reaching. No one reading this report can doubt the reality of climate change," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the Climate and Energy Programs at World Resources Institute.
"Unless we sharply reduce carbon pollution, the toll on our economies and people’s well-being will be far more than we can bear. The good news is that solutions are well understood. A growing body of evidence finds that action on climate change can go hand-in-hand with policies that will strengthen our economies. The synthesis report should bring a deep sense of purpose to the climate talks in Lima. Negotiators need to lay the groundwork for a strong and universal climate agreement to be finalized in Paris next year."
Watch the Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report press conference today in Copenhagen, Denmark:
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For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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