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Humanity has just four years to peak and start drawing down global greenhouse gas emissions, coal- and gas-fired power plants must shut down within a decade, and wealthy lifestyles and behaviours will have to change to avoid climate breakdown, according to a leaked draft of an upcoming working group report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
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The report from the IPCC’s Working Group III, dealing with climate change mitigation, isn’t due until next March. But a small group of scientists leaked an early draft through the Spanish branch of Scientist Rebellion, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, out of concern “that their conclusions could be watered down before publication in 2022,” The Guardian reports.
IPCC Head of Communications Jonathan Lynn said much of the text had already changed from what appeared to be a first draft that was circulated for comment in January.
The blockbuster report the IPCC released last week came from the first of the three working groups, responsible for the physical science of climate change. Working Group II is looking at how to reduce human influence on the climate.
Working Group III’s draft document concludes that “rich people in every country are overwhelmingly more responsible for global heating than the poor, with SUVs and meat-eating singled out for blame, and the high-carbon basis for future economic growth is also questioned,” The Guardian writes. “The top 10% of emitters globally, who are the wealthiest 10%, contribute between 36 and 45% of emissions, which is 10 times as much as the poorest 10%, who are responsible for only about three to 5%.”
“The consumption patterns of higher income consumers are associated with large carbon footprints,” the draft summary states. “Top emitters dominate emissions in key sectors, for example the top 1% account for 50% of emissions from aviation.”
By contrast, delivering what The Guardian calls “modern energy” to the 800 million people around the world with no access to electricity would only have a “negligible” impact on global emissions, the working group concludes.
The report lists lifestyle changes that can make a significant contribution to global emission reductions, The Guardian says, including an end to overheated and over-cooled homes, walking and cycling, less air travel, and less use of energy-consuming appliances. And it also focuses on eating habits in many parts of the rich world.
“A shift to diets with a higher share of plant-based protein in regions with excess consumption of calories and animal-source food can lead to substantial reductions in emissions, while also providing health benefits,” the draft says. “Plant-based diets can reduce emissions by up to 50% compared to the average emission-intensive western diet.”
The working group also warns that current low-carbon investment would have to quintuple just to hold average warming at 2°C, much less 1.5°. “Existing and planned infrastructure and investments, institutional inertia, and a social bias towards the status quo are leading to a risk of locking in future emissions that may be costly or difficult to abate,” the scientists say.
The report concludes that carbon capture and storage options have “not progressed rapidly enough to play a major role yet,” but finds optimism in improvements in solar, wind, and battery technologies and the prospects for fast reductions in methane emissions, The Guardian says. While carbon sequestration in forests and land can help limit global warming, those strategies “cannot compensate for slow emissions reduction in other sectors, the report says.”