The headline from the latest report
from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this time from working group three focusing on the solutions required to cut global emissions at scale, does offer some hope that the Paris agreement’s 1.5C pathway can be achieved, but a complete transformation of planetary resource use is necessary to do so. The trends are not good. Emissions are on the rise, and countries around the world are generally falling behind their commitments. And these commitments aren’t good enough anyway.
This latest report concludes the three-parts of the IPCC’s sixth reporting cycle. The first part, released in August 2021 looked at the causes of climate change. The second, in February 2022 examined climate change impacts. And this third part focuses on mitigation.
The IPCC’s position remains that global net emissions will need to be reduced by 48% by 2030 from a 2019 baseline, and all the way to zero by 2050 to achieve a 1.5C trajectory. For a 2C trajectory, emissions must peak by 2025, come down 25% by 2030 and hit net zero no later than 2070. Energy transition remains crucial. Even if all renewable energy infrastructure that is planned is completed, the IPCC predicts that we’re still looking at a warming trajectory of between 2.8C and 4C.
This is because the planet has essentially reached the point where breaching carbon and methane budgets is inevitable. The latest report emphasises the need for solutions that can capture carbon – including nature-based solutions such as soil restoration and tree planting, and technologies that directly remove carbon dioxide from the air. Eventually net negative carbon will be necessary for warming to stabilise at 1.5C.
Further underling the challenges, a new report
from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that atmospheric levels of methane increased by the highest amount on record in 2021 for the second year in a row. Methane is of course a highly potent greenhouse gas.
Africa food crisis
Food supply is becoming a major concern, and not just because of the impacts of the war in Ukraine. Illustrating that food crises are nothing new, a group of international relief NGOs, including Oxfam and Save the Children have pointed out that 27 million people in west Africa
are facing acute hunger, and that could rise to 38 million by early summer. This makes it the region’s worst food related crisis for a decade. Oxfam blames the combination of drought, floods, conflict and the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic as causing the crisis. The situation in Ukraine is pushing global food prices up – exacerbating the problems in west Africa.
90% cosmetics contain microplastics
Pollution from the microplastic particles found in cosmetics is the subject of a new report
from the Plastic Soup Foundation. Around 3,800 tonnes of microplastics are released annually from cosmetics and care products in Europe alone – as estimated by the European Chemicals Agency. The foundation found that of the products from the top ten popular cosmetic brands that they analysed, nine out of 10 contained microplastics. The EU is in the process of bringing in rules to restrict the use of microplastics in cosmetics and other products, but the Plastic Soup Foundation argues that the proposed regulations are not defined tightly enough, with loopholes that will allow the continued use of potentially harmful plastics.
The pressure on microplastics use seems set to continue to grow. Researchers at the University of Hull
have been investigating human lung tissue and have found, for the first time, microplastic material penetrated deep into the lungs. While the health implications of these findings are, as yet, unclear, they are of course indicative of the universal nature of plastic pollution.