What hope can we take from the intense IPCC report released this week? Climate Curious speaks to Energy Innovation's Anand Gopal.

Transcript: Climate Quickie, IPCC Report – what hope can we take?

TEDxLondon Climate Curious

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Maryam Pasha:

We’re back with another solutions-focused episode helping you to digest the intense Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the IPCC’s – report published last week. It’s a piece of work from UN scientists warning us about impending climate disaster, and how to avert it. 

We spoke to executive director of policy research, Anand Gopal, about his take on the report, and why he’s hopeful that we have all the solutions we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it’s just about getting it to be a global priority. 

Let’s listen now – and remember Stay Curious! 

Anand Gopal:

Hi, I’m Anand Gopal, executive director of Policy Research at Energy Innovation at Climate Policy Analysis Think Tank based in the US

I grew up in the southern Indian city of Chennai in a city is now at the  sort of front lines of a changing climate, and I immigrated to the US a couple of decades ago.

Seeing what is happening in Southern India and the global South has been a major motivating factor for me to work on energy and climate policy.

You may have all seen a few weeks ago the headlines talked about the IPCC report, the sixth report to be precise and the headlines might have been about how much humans have caused global warming.

And also the fact that the situation for how much the Earth’s climate is changing has become quite a lot more dire than it was even a few years ago. And that’s what this report is all about.Documenting carefully, scientifically, how much humans have affected the climate of the planet that we live on.

Every time an IPCC report comes out, I always brace myself for the worst. Because every single report in the last few cycles has shown that global warming and climate change has progressed a little bit faster than what we have predicted using our science, which is scary.

So I definitely felt that we are close to getting to tipping points where the climate can change very rapidly and make the planet much harder to live on, live on for all of its beings, including humans. So feeling scared and a little bit of dread as to what might happen if we don’t address the problem.

At the same time. However, I work in this field and I’ve done so for 20. So I also know that we can solve the problem. So it just sort of motivated me to redouble my efforts in everything I do on a daily basis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC was established in 1988 by the UN Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization to periodically assess the science related to climate change. Since then, the IPCC has completed six assessment cycles and recently released its sixth assessment synthesis report, which is a final part in the sixth Assessment Report series. So essentially every few years they go back and look at the science related to climate change, what has happened to our planet, and also work on a set of solutions on how we can address the problem.

The report draws upon the work of thousands of scientists around the. And assesses the latest research on the physical science of climate change, its impacts on natural and human systems, and the potential for how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and also how we as a human species can adapt to its impacts.

So the sixth assessment report concludes that human influence has warmed the climate at a rate since 1970.

That is unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years. The global surface temperature has increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial era. And the last decade, 2011 to 2020 was the warmest on record. 

The report finds that even if emissions are rapidly reduced, some impacts of climate change are already irreversible, and further warming will continue for decades to centuries due to past emissions. So while all of that is true, there’s also solutions up ahead.

This may sound scary, but all is not lost. There’s also part of the report that is quite hopeful. First of all, the report finds that it is still possible to reduce and keep warming under 1.5 degrees sea, but it will require an immediate and ambitious action by all countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What it means in actual terms is that the world as a whole, Needs to top out or peak all greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Currently, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are increasing every year, so it would need to peak and top out by 2025 and then start reducing so that we end up with at least half the emissions that we have today by 2030,

Now, for an average person listening to this, that might sound like a very difficult thing to do. And yes, it is not easy. But there’s a lot of good news in the sense that as someone who has worked on climate, particularly around how do you find solutions, , the energy that powers our societies.

I can tell you that the technologies we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with what the IPCC says is needed, are all invented and available today. What we need is for governments and businesses to make acting on climate change a higher priority, and in some cases, the highest priority, because they have the power to put these technologies into large scale use while winding down all the pollutant polluting technologies. And the incredible thing is we can, uh, given how much, uh, while humans have caused a lot of warming, they also have a lot of aptitude for innovation that we could probably have very little changes to what we are used to in terms of our life, and still not pollute the planet and cause climate change that’s near our grasp at the moment.

As someone who’s worked on climate policy and energy transitions to getting us to a cleaner energy system for a long time.

Every time the IPCC report comes out and talks about how the planet’s climate is changing, that does fill me with a sense of dread and foreboding, and every time that my team and others who are working in the climate movement start looking at solutions, it fills me with a lot of hope. The reason is many of us who worked for the longest time in climate 20 years ago just did not believe that solar panels and wind turbines would become the cheapest form of energy in 20 years. That’s where they are right now. They’re cheaper than any other fossil fuel. Many of us, even 10 years ago, never believed that the combustion engine would actually become more expensive than a battery electric vehicle. And that’s now at hand within one or two years.

So what we find, the solutions for climate change are also quite well aligned with saving people a lot of money. They provide people with better products and services than they’re used to currently. So in an interesting way, technological progress has also come across, come through in leaps and bounds at the same time that the warming has gotten worse.

The best thing that you can do as an average citizen, is to engage with any level of government you feel empowered to engage in. Ask them to prioritize acting on climate change.

The best thing that is possible to catalyze this transformation is to unleash the power of governments and therefore also businesses to take climate change seriously. And you can play your part in that.

You can find out more about what we do@energyinnovation.org.



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