Without rapid reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, the world faces a future with longer and hotter heat waves, wider and more severe droughts, and increased extreme storm events, a new United Nations report warns.
The latest assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded it is now too late to prevent global warming from worsening over the next couple of decades but said there is still a small opportunity to stave off the even more catastrophic effects of climate change.
The gloomy report is likely to heighten calls in New Jersey and across the nation to more aggressively phase out the use of fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to cleaner fuels, such as renewable energy like solar and wind power.
Another alarm bell for New Jersey
“This report is yet another alarm bell, and we are almost out of time,’’ said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “This summer in New Jersey we’ve had historic heat waves and significant flooding, and we’ve experienced a dystopian haze from the forest fires out West — a scary omen of the future we are building.’’
The assessment notes the failure to curb adding climate-warming carbon dioxide to the atmosphere — such emissions are still growing — has already baked in expectations that total global warming will rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, perhaps as early as the 2030s, the most ambitious limit set by the 2015 Paris accord on climate change.
“There should be nothing in this report to anyone who has been following these assessments that should be surprising,’’ said Robert Kopp, director of the Institute of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science at Rutgers University and an author of the report. “We need immediate actions.’’
Murphy and Biden’s energy goals
The report highlights the importance of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a goal embraced by the Biden administration, but not by other countries around the world. This includes China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse-gas emissions. That country hopes to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2060.
In New Jersey, the Murphy administration has set an aggressive strategy for transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2050 and curbing global warming emissions. Even some clean-energy advocates, however, fault the administration, saying it is not moving quickly enough to phase out fossil fuel projects.
“To be a climate leader, New Jersey needs to follow the science,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “That will force drastic reductions of fossil fuel in all sectors. We need to be putting in benchmarks for carbon reductions in the transportation, building and electricity sectors.’’
Climate, business leaders weigh in
Climate advocates said the time to act is now. “A world besieged by raging wildfire, massive floods, extreme heat, tropical cyclones and killer storms — all supercharged by climate change — is already upon us,’’ said Mitchell Bernard, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“We still have time to take the necessary actions to limit the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). But that window is fast closing. So we must act immediately,’’ Bernard said.
If coordinated actions to drastically reduce emissions occur worldwide, eventually global warming could level off at around 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the UN survey. That is important because with every increment in global warming, changes in extremes continue to widen, the report noted.
But Raymond Cantor, a vice president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, urged caution. “We need to see what the science is saying,’’ said Cantor, who did not question the need to act on climate change. “It is important to be precise, instead of reacting to overheated statements.’’