Daily Archives: May 13, 2023

The Latest IPCC Report Will Make You Sad. And Mad. Don’t Give Up! – Union of Concerned Scientists

On Monday, March 20, the IPCC will be publicly releasing a report synthesizing the latest climate science, the culmination of its sixth assessment cycle. With global heat-trapping emissions still on the rise and millions of people across the world still reeling from last year’s deadly and costly climate-related disasters, this report provides a distillation of all that scientists are bearing witness to, a collective howl for action, albeit delivered in precise technical terms. Please don’t be numb to the implications of this report; please don’t give in to gloom and doom either. This report matters because it reflects our reality and helps inform a blueprint for urgent action.

The conclusions we are likely to see in the forthcoming report are already clear from the three working group reports that the IPCC has released over the last two years in this sixth assessment cycle and previous special reports. Here’s the bottom line: Because of decades of politically motivated inaction from policymakers, especially in richer countries, and the greed of fossil fuel companies bent on extracting every last bit of profit, scientific projections show that we are currently on a trajectory to exceed 1.5˚C in global average temperature increase above pre-industrial levels within the next 10 to 15 years.

It is heartbreaking and infuriating to sit with this hard reality.

Even at about 1.1˚C now, we are already in a dangerous and deeply inequitable climate crisis. Which only reaffirms, with greater urgency, what we must (still) do to address climate change: phase down fossil fuels sharply and quickly while transitioning to clean energy, make deep cuts in heat-trapping emissions, and rapidly shore up resilience to worsening climate impacts. To do that in an equitable way, richer countries must meet their responsibility to provide funding for low-income nations to meet climate goals.

What’s also clear is that this is a challenge that goes well beyond carbon emissions—it is deeply rooted in an inequitable fossil energy and economic system. To solve it will take marrying our best, most innovative clean technologies to transformative changes in our socioeconomic and political systems that will help create a healthier, safer, more just world for everyone.

Who bears responsibility for climate change?

The IPCC is clear about the varying contributions to the heat-trapping emissions fueling climate change from different regions, with richer nations contributing the most to the problem (see figure below from the IPCC working group III report). For us here in the United States, knowing that the U.S. is the largest historical emitter of CO2 emissions, responsible for about a quarter of those emissions, our responsibility to act boldly is obvious.

Who bears the impacts of climate change?

We are all experiencing climate impacts; but low-income nations, communities with the fewest resources, and those most marginalized, are bearing the brunt of these impacts (and, often, the worst of fossil fuel pollution too). The continent of Africa is among the most climate vulnerable places, as the IPCC figure below, from the working group II report, shows.


The IPCC findings make clear that climate change is significantly increasing the likelihood of many kinds of human-caused, fossil-fueled disasters. For example, the WGII report states that:

  • Climate change has caused substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems (high confidence).
  • Climate change has adversely affected physical health of people globally (very high confidence) and mental health of people in the assessed regions (very high confidence).
  • Climate change is contributing to humanitarian crises where climate hazards interact with high vulnerability (high confidence). Climate and weather extremes are increasingly driving displacement in all regions (high confidence), with Small Island States disproportionately affected (high confidence). Flood and drought-related acute food insecurity and malnutrition have increased in Africa (high confidence) and Central and South America (high confidence)

And our lived experiences confirm the science.

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Banking Against Science: Financial Institutions Continue to Fund Climate Destruction – Union of Concerned Scientists

At the start of the recent COP 27 climate meeting in Egypt, a United Nations report on the role of financial institutions in controlling climate change said, “There is no room for new investment in fossil fuel supply.”

With COP 27 now concluded, fossil fuel investment remains the elephant in the room. The international meeting yielded no breakthrough on phasing down emissions nor on the unconscionable levels to which banks and asset managers continue to bankroll oil, gas and coal. Any hope of keeping planetary temperatures below catastrophic levels must confront this stampede of greed and greenwashing hypocrisy.

Five years ago, the World Bank said it would end investments in oil and gas extraction by 2019. Instead, the bank continued to fund nearly $15 billion in fossil fuel projects into 2021 according to a report last month endorsed by a global consortium of environmental groups. World Bank President David Malpass, appointed in 2019 by climate-denying President Trump, damaged that organization’s credibility even further this fall by refusing, in a public forum, to acknowledge that human activities cause climate change.

Then there’s the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). It is a coalition of more than 550 of the world’s top financial institutions controlling more than $150 trillion in assets. A year ago, GFANZ said all its members “must align” their portfolios to the UN’s Race to Zero “stringent criteria” aimed at halving global emissions by 2030 and bringing net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Scientists say such targets would help keep the average global temperature increase under 1.5 degrees centigrade and avoid the worst effects of global warming. GFANZ also said its members must “commit to transparent reporting and accounting” on emissions reductions targets.

That was a year ago, as corporations scrambled for good public relations for COP 26. Since then, it clearly dawned on many GFANZ members that they might actually be held accountable for whether they truly slash fossil fuel investments. By September, multiple news reports had Wall Street titans J.P. Morgan and Bank of America threatening to pull out of GFANZ. Unnamed bank executives told the Financial Times that their cold feet were due to fears of being sued for not hitting targets while governments and other entities were hardly unified on agreeing to uniform commitments to cut emissions.

…(read more).

Climate Change Archive – Union of Concerned Scientists

Our experts write on the science and impacts of global warming—and explore the solutions we have at hand.

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Fossil Fuel Companies Make Billions in Profit as We Suffer Billions in Losses – Union of Concerned Scientists

The world’s biggest fossil fuel companies recently released their 2022 earnings reports, revealing record-breaking profits last year; just five companies–ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, and TotalEnergies–reported a total of nearly $200 billion in profits. At the same time, the world is incurring record losses due to extreme weather events. Thanks to advances in attribution science, we now understand many of these extreme events have been worsened by climate change. The fossil fuel industry plays the dominant role globally in causing climate change and therefore their profits come at the expense of our global health and safety.

As the field of attribution science advances, researchers are increasingly able to show when and how particular extreme events are occurring due to human-caused climate change, and to trace these changes back to the source of the heat trapping emissions. As this causal chain is strengthened, it may give people an avenue for seeking compensation for damages, meaning that companies would need to use part of their profits to pay for the share of the damage that can be traced to them.

The profits made by the oil and gas majors come at the direct expense of all of us and our shared planet. These companies continue to extract more fossil fuels from the ground, lobby for their interests, deceive and misinform the public about climate change, and build new infrastructure to lock us into this continual cycle of extraction, combustion, and the dire consequences it brings. They need to be held accountable for these actions.

They profit, we lose

While these companies are making hundreds of billions of dollars in profit, people around the world are bearing hundreds of billions of dollars each year in losses due to the devastating and worsening effects of climate change.

ExxonMobil and Chevron, two companies headquartered in the United States, reported earnings of $55.7 billion and $35.5 billion, respectively, during 2022. In 2022, the United States experienced 18 separate climate and weather related disasters, including droughts, floods, severe storms, and wildfires which each caused over $1 billion in damage and led to the deaths of four hundred and seventy four people. Altogether the 18 events cost an estimated $165 billion, making 2022 the third most costly year for US weather and climate disasters since 1980.

…(read more).