The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday marked the end of an eight-year global effort that analysed the scientific understanding about the climate crisis. While the science of the report is not new, this document connects the dots of the crisis and provides a road map for the world to tackle it. The report’s narrative is clear: Humans are altering the climate and natural systems in unprecedented ways, and without policy and behavioural changes, the average global temperature is likely to rise above the benchmark of 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, likely within the next decade. But, it adds, if the world dramatically reduces emissions, future scenarios can be better. To be sure, the benchmark will be breached, but for scientists and governments to admit this would mean accepting failure. For, unless they do more, even the 2° Celsius benchmark could be breached.
It has been clear for a while that the developed world must reject fossil fuels and stop any new expansion of oil, gas and coal, and stop shifting the onus of climate action on developing countries. The urgency of this shift was underlined by the report predicting the “worst impact” on India and South Asia. United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres also made it clear that wealthier countries must mobilise resources to support emerging economies, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Getting the developed world to meet its climate responsibilities has been a challenge; but going forward, they must act, or the rest of the world will pay a heavy price for their defiant and irresponsible attitude.