Climate Change Report Puts World on 'Fast Track' to Disaster: U.N.

In response to a new report on climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said Monday that its findings are proof that the world is on the "fast track" to a climate disaster.

In addition to the warning from Guterres, other U.N. climate scientists said it is "now or never" regarding limiting global warming following the IPCC report, which stated that carbon emissions from 2010 to 2019 were the highest in human history.

"This is not fiction or exaggeration," Guterres said. "It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree (Celsius, or 2.7-degrees Fahrenheit) limit" that was agreed upon in the 2015 Paris climate accords.

The scientists and U.N. officials called for countries around the world to take action to lower their carbon emissions on the same day the World Health Organization released a new report that estimated up to 99 percent of the global population lives in an area with unsafe or harmful air quality. Also on Monday, climate change protesters demanding that the Biden administration prohibit drilling or mining fossil fuels on government and Indigenous land blocked traffic on northbound Interstate 395 in Washington, D.C.

"This report of the [IPCC] is a litany of broken climate promises," Guterres said. "It is a file of shame cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world. We are on a fast track to climate disaster. Major cities underwater, unprecedented heat waves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages, the extinction of a million species of plants and animals."

The IPCC report also stated that greenhouse gas emissions can be cut in half by 2030, if the world's governments act to reduce the emissions "across all sectors" by reducing the burning of fossil fuels, increasing the use of renewable energy sources and investing in research to continue to lower the cost of renewable energy.

The new report and Guterres also criticized governments for making commitments that have not been lived up to. In September 2021, Guterres said the planet is on a "catastrophic pathway" to a climate-crippled future if nations don't commit to cutting higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Some governments and business leaders are saying one thing, but doing another. Simply put, they are lying, and the results will be catastrophic," Guterres said in connection to the new report. "Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals, but the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness."

However, the report stated that despite the grim predictions, measures taken as soon as possible could have positive effects that limit global warming. Cities could provide opportunities for reducing emissions, as urban areas are able to create infrastructure that is pedestrian-friendly, in addition to emphasizing electric transportation, the report stated.

The industry sector is responsible for about a quarter of global emissions, and will need to use materials more efficiently as methods of low- and zero-emissions production are refined, according to the report.

The ideal scenarios created by the IPCC would see global greenhouse gas emissions peak no later than 2025, and would see a reduction of over 40 percent by 2030, meaning the IPCC believes that action has to be taken as soon as possible.

"We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming," said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. "I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation."

Update 4/4/22, 1:40 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.

United Nations Climate Change Report
A new climate report from IPCC climate scientists said that it is "now or never" regarding limiting global warming. Above, the United Nations emblem is seen in front of the United Nations Office (UNOG) on June 8, 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland. Johannes Simon/Getty Images