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World reacts to IPCC's ominous climate warning

Alex Berry
August 9, 2021

World leaders and climate activists are in agreement that something has to change to avoid a climate crisis. It remains to be seen if they will follow through.

A protest sign from a climate demonstration that reads "Act now!"
Responses to the IPCC report have been united in their calls for actionImage: Matthias Wehnert/Future Image/imago images

Activists, world leaders and civil society responded on Monday to the new ominous report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that warned that the world is on track to surpass the warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) within 15 years.

The report laid out the undeniability of human emissions being the cause of the rise in temperature, which has already sparked environmental catastrophes around the world.

Greta Thunberg: 'We are in an emergency'

The planet has already warmed up by 1.1 degrees and just a handful of countries are on course to reduce their emissions to a sufficient extent.

However, as climate activist Greta Thunberg pointed out, the report "contains no real surprises."

"It confirms what we already know from thousands previous studies and reports — that we are in an emergency," the 18-year-old wrote on Twitter.

"We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis," she added.

In light of the report, Thunberg told Reuters news agency she now plans to attend the upcoming UN climate conference in Scotland. She'd previously said she would boycott the conference due to the unequal rollout of COVID vaccines around the world.

Nigerian activist Oladosu Adenike had a similar response to Thunburg, writing on Twitter that "the commitments from world leaders aren't enough to tackle the current projections of the impact."

'Death knell' for fossil fuels

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the report a "code red" for humanity, adding that it "must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy the planet."

The US government's Climate Envoy, John Kerry, said the IPCC report shows that "we cannot afford further delay," adding that "climate change is transforming our planet in unprecedented ways, with far-reaching effects that we are already seeing – making heatwaves, extreme rainfall, fire weather, and droughts more frequent and severe."

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is facing pressure at home to stop the planned opening of a coal mine, said in reaction to the report: "We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline."

The EU's chief for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermann joined in the chorus on Twitter, saying that "it's not too late… if we act decisively now."

Earlier in the day, German politicians also urged for increased cooperation to tackle the crisis, including a global green deal to expand renewable energies. 

UN climate report author Friederike Otto

More extreme weather to come

Friederike Otto, one of the author's of the report, spoke to DW about its conclusions, stating that "it is a fact: there is no uncertainty that human greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of the warming we observe."

She explained that we can expect to see more extreme weather and climate events, such as heatwaves, flooding and droughts, that we are already observing.

"In addition to that, what we will also, no matter at what level we constrain global mean temperature rise, continue to observe further sea level rise for decades and centuries to come, and also glacial melt, because these are the slow responding parts of the climate system," Otto added.

She also emphasized that the report is about the climate science which provides governments with the data they need for policy decisions, but does not make any policy recommendations. But if we want to limit warming to just 1.5 degrees, then we "have to reach net-zero by the middle of the century."

Warming behind recent wildfires

The European Space Agency's Climate Office spoke to DW about the IPCC report and the recent wildfires in southern Europe.

Climate expert Clement Albergel said that the new report "echoes previous findings linking human activities, greenhouse gas emissions in particular, and climate change."

In reference to the fires that have devastated large parts of Greece, Turkey and Italy in recent days, he said: "When high temperatures are combined with low humidity, low rainfall and/or high winds there is an increased risk of wildfire... This combination of conditions is now observed over a longer period of time over much of the world... and is linked to climate change."

"Under a warming climate, extreme events such as prolonged heatwaves and droughts are likely to increase both in intensity and frequency, this is a proven fact," Albergel added.