It’s “Now or Never” on Climate Change / by Mel Gurtov

Photo credit: Japan Times

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group report gives us until 2030 to stop global warming at 1.5°C. The report proposes several steps that are vital to achieving that goal. The steps are:

* Coal must be effectively phased out.

* Methane emissions must be reduced by a third.

* More forests must be planted and soils must be preserved.

* The shift to a low-carbon world requires huge new investments, which now are about six times lower than they should be.

All sectors of the global economy, from energy and transport to buildings and food, must change dramatically and rapidly, and new technologies including hydrogen fuel and carbon capture and storage will be needed.

What chance do we have of getting even close to meeting those requirements?

Getting tough with the culprits

Evidently, not much. John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, says we’re on track to see global warming rise to between 2 and 2.7 degrees Celsius in the near future. The IPCC says the same. A basic problem is that no regulatory body exists that can tell individual governments what they should be doing to meet their climate responsibilities. That job is left to an informed public, responsible governments, and especially nongovernmental expert groups to figure out.

For example, how can we bring the fossil fuel industry to heel? Research has shown that the Big Four oil companies—Chevron, Shell, BP, and Exxon-Mobil—are alone responsible for 10 percent of global emissions. The Union of Concerned Scientists tries to answer that question in the Winter 2022 issue of Catalyst. UCS lays out four ways to undo the damage to the environment being caused by the major and lesser oil and gas companies:

1. Compiling evidence of what Big Oil scientists knew and know about climate change that they did or did not choose to disclose to outsiders.

2. Increasing lawsuits against fossil fuel companies at city, county, and state levels for damages to the environment and fraudulent risk statements. (Right now, 29 such suits are in progress.)

3. Calling out Big Oil lobbyists who seek to obstruct Congressional action on climate change.

4. Providing science-based information on the carbon emissions of the major oil companies.

But facts, pressure, and lawsuits have thus far failed to move the Big Four and their friends in legislatures. And even if those folks can be forced to make policy changes, will they be in time to save us from the predicted increase in floods, hurricanes, disease, forest loss, and drought?

Ways forward on the technological side

Proponents of technological tools for fighting climate change think they have an answer. Dave Roberts, a strong voice on clean energy, cites rapid advances in electrification of cars, industry, and buildings as the key to meeting climate change goals. Prices for the technology are coming down very fast, he says:

“The tools for electrification, which are mainly wind and solar power, batteries, and then electrolysis to create green hydrogen, all four of those technologies are on what are called learning curves, which means, every time the deployment, the global deployment of those technologies doubles, their price drops by a predictable amount.”

Four scientists who helped write the IPCC report support Roberts’ prescription, adding that we shouldn’t be so concerned about which energy renewables or which technology will contribute most to offsetting carbon emissions. The main point, the IPCC says, is that:

“For the coming decade, rapidly reducing coal electricity and building extensive wind, solar and storage systems are low-cost strategies in many places, regardless of how much energy might or might not eventually come from renewables. This is because plummeting costs make solar and wind increasingly competitive, and electricity from solar is now the ‘cheapest source of electricity in history’ in some locations, according to the International Energy Agency. Moreover, the costs of batteries and other storage technologies are also declining.”

Indeed, a look at the maps below of reliance on wind and solar energy reveals that Europe is far ahead of the rest of the world, with nine of the top ten countries (led by Denmark at an astounding 52 percent) relying on wind and solar for electricity. Contrast that with the US (13%), China (11%), and India (8%), showing that in terms of population, we have a long way to go before green energy wins out.

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Time is not on our side

A major move in electrification will be helpful, but it will only be a partial response to the climate crisis. For instance, it won’t address all the sources of climate change, such as methane, the most potent greenhouse gas whose principal human-activity source is agriculture.

Furthermore, past experience shows that environmental remedies do not necessarily create trickle-down effects. The poorest countries and the poorest people are most affected and least helped, especially financially, by environmental abuses over which they have no control. Cost estimates on countering climate change run into the trillions of dollars.

Then there are irresponsible governments, such as the Bolsonaro regime in Brazil, which is now engaged in the criminal destruction of the Amazon’s forests and its indigenous people; and China, which has ramped up coal mining. Forest and species loss is very high despite commitments made at COP26 last year.

And let’s not omit irresponsible fossil fuel companies, which only want to talk about increasing production, not alternative energy and conservation. Meantime, in a world of 1.5°C to 2.0°C warming, the IPCC report predicts not just extraordinary damage to world food supplies—perhaps eight percent of the world’s farmland no longer producing food, for example—but also very high death tolls from environmental emergencies. And those predictions predate the Ukraine war, which has caused huge grain losses.

Now or never

One of the many authors of the IPCC report said: “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

John Kerry, in a recent interview, was equally realistic, which is to say, putting the best face on a dire situation. He said:

“We’re way behind. And we’re not going to catch up in that period of time. The best thing that we can do at this point is win the battle of getting on track faster. We could be deploying the renewable technology we have today much faster, to a much greater extent and begin to bring down the emissions, notwithstanding Ukraine, notwithstanding the pressure people are feeling about the supply of oil and gas and fossil fuel. Just the transition off of coal or oil to gas will help us meet the goal of this next six to 10 years.”

In a nutshell, if the will and the politics were there, we can get through the climate crisis. But those who have the power to make it so have other plans.

Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.

Counterpunch, May 24, 2022,

IPCC report calls for ‘immediate and deep’ carbon cuts to slow climate change / by John Cannon

Coal mining and deforestation Photo: RawPixel / Mongabay

  • A new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that the world could face a more than 3° Celsius (5.4° Fahrenheit) increase in the global average temperature over pre-industrial levels based on current carbon emissions.
  • However, the authors of the report say investment in renewable energy, green building and responsible land use could lower emissions enough to stay below an increase of 1.5°C (2.7°F), a target identified at the 2015 U.N. climate conference that scientists predict would avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
  • Addressing continued global carbon emissions will require trillions, not billions, of dollars in financing from public and private sources to cut emissions, the report finds.
  • Its authors also say that including Indigenous and local communities from the beginning in land-use decisions aimed at climate change mitigation is critical.

Current pledges to cut emissions won’t be enough to slow climate change, according to a new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said this report, which focuses on the mitigation of human-caused global warming, catalogs “a litany of broken climate promises.”

“We are on a fast track to climate disaster,” Guterres said at an April 4 press conference. The world is on track to see a rise in the average global temperature over the pre-industrial level of “more than double” the 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) target agreed to in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and reaffirmed at the 2021 U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, he said.

Global net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (gigaton of CO2-equivalent/year) 1990–2019. (Photo the IPCC)

The report, which involved the collaboration of 278 authors from 65 countries, draws from more than 18,000 scientific studies. The research shows that global carbon emissions continue to rise. In 2019, emissions were 12% higher than in 2010 and more than 50% higher than 1990 levels, said Jim Skea, co-chair of the working group that produced the report.

“The reality is the greenhouse gases emissions, which are causing global warming, are at their highest levels in human history,” Skea, who is based at Imperial College London, said at the press conference.

Our assessment concludes that unless there are immediate and deep emission reductions across all sectors, limiting warming to 1.5° will be beyond reach.

This report is the third released by the IPCC in the past eight months. The group plans to release its sixth assessment later this year that will bring together these mitigation-focused findings with those from an August 2021 report detailing the role of humans in climate change and a report on climate change adaptation and vulnerability published in February 2022.

The April 4 report indicates that global emissions must top out by 2025 and be cut by 43% by 2030 to have a chance of staying under that 1.5°C target. Ultimately, the world will need to reach net-zero carbon emissions by the early 2050s, scientists say, which is the point at which the global temperature will stop rising.

An oil palm nursery and processing facility in Indonesia. “The reality is the greenhouse gases emissions, which are causing global warming, are at their highest levels in human history,” said Jim Skea, co-chair of the working group that wrote the report. (Photo Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay)

Policies enacted by some governments have resulted in avoided emissions, IPCC chair Hoesung Lee said.

“I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries,” Lee said in a statement.

If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.

Reaching those reduction goals will require sweeping and immediate action across a variety of sectors, the report says. Renewable energy from wind and the sun and stored in batteries must replace carbon-emitting fossil fuels. The cost of these technologies has come down dramatically in the past decade, research shows, with the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of powering homes, businesses and transportation. Lifestyle changes, such as walking and bicycling more, could also contribute significantly to reducing the release of carbon.

The authors also call for a shift toward climate-friendly construction of buildings that use less energy and emit less carbon. Cities, too, should be built to minimize emissions and begin to remove carbon from the atmosphere through the inclusion of green roofs, lakes and trees.

The land-use sector, including agriculture and forestry, has a strong and potentially climate-positive role to play, with the proper management, said Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, co-chair of this working group and a professor at Central European University in Hungary.

“We show that actually, restoration of the ecosystems and preserving some of the land in its original ecosystem status is very important,” Ürge-Vorsatz said at the press conference.

The report notes that although better land-use decisions can cut emissions and help pull carbon from the atmosphere, they “cannot fully compensate for delayed action in other sectors.”

Global greenhouse gas emissions of modeled pathways. (Photo: the IPCC)

Ürge-Vorsatz also addressed the possibility that these decisions could have negative consequences for people who depend on the land in question, including Indigenous communities.

Ürge-Vorsatz also addressed the possibility that these decisions could have negative consequences for people who depend on the land in question, including Indigenous communities.

A report released in March by the World Resource Institute and the think tank Climate Focus shows that lands held by Indigenous and local communities could make substantial contributions to carbon reductions targets. Centering on four countries in Central and South America, the research found that these lands pull in about twice as much carbon per hectare as lands outside the control of these communities. The authors suggested in a March 31 press conference that laws should protect Indigenous claims to the land and that these laws must be enforced.

The IPCC’s research suggests that success in mitigating climate change rests on the involvement of these communities, Ürge-Vorsatz said.

“The best option is to include the stakeholders from the beginning of planning these actions,” she said. She also noted the “special wisdom” that these groups bring relating to how to manage the land for the best outcomes.

Making the required shifts in society will require money, and the report includes a chapter on financing. Money will have to come from public as well as private sources, Skea said, and amounts invested in climate mitigation must be far higher than they are today.

“The money that is needed is actually in the trillions [of dollars],” he said.

It’s not … a matter of billions.

Regardless of the challenges ahead, Skea said the path to addressing climate change requires a greater focus on stripping away carbon emissions from every layer of society.

“What we have done is set out very clearly–it’s almost through the laws of physics and chemistry–that that is what would need to happen if we were to limit warming to these levels,” he said. But he and the other authors also emphasize the urgent need to act.

“The longer we put off action in terms of addressing climate change, the bigger the feasibility challenges will be,” Skea added.

That is a very, very clear message of the report.

John Cannon is a staff features writer with Mongabay.

MR Online, April 5, 2022,

Citation: IPCC (2022). Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Retrieved from

How a global ‘climate non-cooperation campaign’ could strike at the heart of fossil capital / by Nick Gottlieb

Demonstration during the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen Summit, in Copenhagen, Denmark, December 17, 2009. Photo by Kris Krüg/Flickr.

If we want to overcome our current extractive regimes, we need to become ungovernable

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in February, painted a stark portrait of worsening global warming and the concomitant risks to organized human life on this planet. To its credit, mainstream media communicated these dire warnings—warnings of extreme heat, flooding, and drought, famine, and even war—effectively. As The Guardian put it, it was the “‘bleakest warning yet’ on [the] impacts of climate breakdown.” In a front page headline, the New York Times asserted that “Time Is Running Out to Fix Climate.”

If you’ve been paying attention, though, you might remember that most previous IPCC reports communicated similarly dire information, and were even reported on with similarly desperate rhetoric. In 2021, when the first part of the Sixth Assessment report was published, we were told that “Major climate changes [are] inevitable and irreversible.”

In 2018, after the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C was published, the Times wrote that the report “paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought.”

And of course, as far back as 1988, the year the IPCC was formed, the Times headlined its front page with a graph of increasing global temperature and the words, “Global Warming Has Begun.”

Climate science has advanced tremendously since the 1980s, of course, and there is no doubt that each new IPCC report does add to the global consensus on climate change. But atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane and any number of other devastating metrics have advanced tremendously since then, too.

In fact, more than half of all anthropogenic carbon emissions ever released have been emitted since the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

That dissonance—or, to put it bluntly, that utter failure of international climate negotiations to make even the smallest difference—is what’s inspiring climate scientists to become activists. It’s also what inspired a group of IPCC authors to publish a paper calling for a climate science strike.

Drs. Bruce Glavovic, Timothy Smith, and Iain White argue that science and society are inherently in a symbiosis—what they call an unwritten “science-society contract.” We invest in and pursue science predominantly because we believe it will benefit society; science, in turn, does its part to drive positive change. With climate science, they argue that this contract has been broken. We have 40 years of “settled” climate science establishing global warming as a clear, present, and well-understood danger on top of more than a century of corroborating research.

In spite of all that, and in spite of the ostensible acceptance of that science by decision-makers, virtually no progress has been made towards mitigating climate change. Climate scientists keep producing more and better research, improving our understanding of the phenomenon and its impacts, but not fundamentally changing the course of action prescribed—ending the use of fossil fuels. As such, the contract has been broken. These scientists propose to force the hands of decision-makers by going on strike. No more research. No more IPCC reports. Nothing.

It may seem crazy: wouldn’t we want to keep improving our understanding of a process that is fundamentally transforming life on our only home planet? Of course we would, but the primary goal of climate change research has always been (and must continue to be) to halt it to the best of our ability. But every IPCC report has been followed by the same series of headlines pronouncing short timelines and narrowing windows for action that are forgotten as soon as the next news cycle rolls around. Every COP is billed as the one at which we’ll get serious about climate action but ends with governments and oil companies patting themselves on the back for a new series of meaningless commitments. At some point, continuing down those paths only serves to legitimize the institutional framework that is utterly failing to restore our futures.

That said, what evidence do we have that a science strike would drive change? The authors don’t offer an answer to that; their argument is more along the lines of, “we’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked.” Fair enough. But here is where the “science-society contract” frame falls short: while scientific research has undoubtedly improved the lives of many people, it has also served as a tool of imperialism, power, and accumulation. Asserting that science on the whole exists in some kind of quid pro quo relationship centered around its benefits to society obscures the power dynamics governing who benefits from scientific research.

These dynamics—undergirded by the capitalist drive for accumulation and the resultant extreme wealth inequality of the modern era—are what is blocking climate action. So the question becomes not “how do we fix the science-society contract?” but rather “how do we overcome the governing powers in order to begin to work towards mitigating climate change and ecological collapse?” Some people benefit from perpetuating the global economic and governance system that is causing climate change. Virtually everyone else—most immediately the billions of people in the Global South, but increasingly even those of us living in the wealthier countries of the Global North—is a victim.

The installation “Come Hell or High Water” by British artist Michael Pinsky shows a fleet of semi-submerged cars in the River Tyne in 2006. Photo by Akuppa John Wigham/Flickr.

In other words, the bottom 90 percent (by wealth) on Earth are victims of a repressive regime of globalized capitalism. Our quality of life, our lifespans, and the very potential of our futures happening at all are rapidly diminishing while the ultrarich accumulate more and more wealth. This lens allows us to look to the past for lessons from successful challenges to repressive regimes like India’s independence campaign and the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

Both of these previous revolutions—which is ultimately what these movements were, and what’s needed today—employed a diversity of tactics including mass mobilization in what are broadly termed “non-cooperation campaigns.” Essentially, people refused to participate in the repressive regime in whatever way they could. The umbrella of non-cooperation included financial disinvestment (like the fossil fuel divestment movement today), general strikes, student strikes, rent strikes, purposeful abdication of roles in government, boycotts of electoral processes, and more.

One key lesson from these campaigns and others was the importance of coordination; of the existence of a unified umbrella holding together the pieces of non-cooperation. Climate divestment has grown beyond any of its founders’ (or its critics’) wildest dreams. Greta Thunberg’s #FridaysForFuture school strike campaign has drawn more than 14 million strikers across 213 countries. Millions have joined climate protests around the world. But while we regularly refer to a nebulous “climate movement,” there remains no broader climate non-cooperation campaign. Divestment, ongoing student strikes, and protests are rarely connected as part of the same, cohesive campaign to withdraw support from the repressive regime of fossil capitalism.

In the early 2000s, Palestinian organizations and international allies had organized a number of divestment campaigns and boycotts against the Israeli regime, but these, like the climate movement today, were largely atomized and uncoordinated. In 2005, one year after the International Court of Justice ruled Israel had violated international law, Palestinian organizations issued a coordinated global call that initiated the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, drawing together a wide variety of existing tactics into one, cohesive movement with a unified vision.

Glavovic, Smith, and White’s science strike proposal is on the right track, but without becoming part of a more intentionally coordinated fossil fuel non-cooperation campaign, it’s doomed to the same failure as every other tactic activists, scientists, and climate-vulnerable peoples have tried over the last forty years. One can easily imagine a world that marches on blindly, IPCC be damned, or one where a mob of fossil fuel-funded scientists cross the picket line and the fossil fuel-funded media fails to even report there was a strike.

The impacts of climate change itself appear to be exceeding even our worst case expectations, but the regime of fossil capitalism has no interest in a change of course. The Canadian government just released its new emissions reduction plan that involves growing oil sands production by 25 percent through 2030. In British Columbia, the two dominant parties are in the legislature fighting over who supports LNG expansion more. Around the world, governments are not just passing the buck on climate action, but actively doubling down on fossil fuel expansion.

To rebuild our future, we need to learn from the past: if we want to overcome fossil capitalism, we need to become ungovernable. We all have a role to play in that.

Nick Gottlieb is a climate writer based in Squamish, BC and the author of the newsletter Sacred Headwaters. His work focuses on understanding the power dynamics driving today’s interrelated crises and exploring how they can be overcome. Follow him on Twitter @ngottliebphoto.

Canadian Dimension, March 31, 2022,