No Time Left For ‘Incremental’ Climate Action, Warns Leaked IPCC Report 

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Our planet has no time left for “incremental change” to avert climate disaster, says a leaked draft of the upcoming IPCC report. The draft is the third part of the IPCC assessment due to be published in March 2022, and has been released by Scientist Rebellion, who say “the people deserve to know now what our corporate-owned politicians have done to them.”

In August, the IPCC released its first section of the three-part assessment, which marks its sixth edition to date. The rest is due to be published in 2022, but Scientist Rebellion, a group of international climate and environmental scientist-activists, have leaked a draft of the third part as there is “no time to wait around”. 

GHG emissions must peak within 4 years

While the first part of the IPCC issued a “code red for humanity”, the leaked third part draft, which focuses on climate mitigation methods, warns that global GHG emissions must reach its peak within the next four years in order to avert climate disaster and breakdown. 

Source: Unsplash

For that to happen, the draft says that current “incremental change” actions will not suffice. “Mitigation and development goals cannot be met through incremental change,” it reads. 

On our current trajectory, committed emissions from fossil fuel infrastructure alone will already take up “nearly double the remaining carbon budget”. 

The report outlines a number of meaningful actions that must be taken on the part of governments and businesses, which will “entail distributional consequences such as changes in employment and economic structure.” 

Climate justice must be at the heart of policymaking

According to the leaked documents, IPCC experts have also warned that mitigation measures will not succeed without considering climate justice. 

“Equity and justice are important enabling conditions for effective climate mitigation,” an excerpt of the draft says. “Institutions and governance that address equity and supporting narratives that promote just transitions can build broader support for climate policymaking.” 

Source: Unicef

Previously, multiple studies have pointed out the huge inequalities between richer countries and individuals who produce the most GHG emissions, and the communities and small island nations who are most vulnerable and at risk of the worst consequences of the climate crisis. 

A recent map published by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, for instance, revealed that just 8% of the world’s surface area produces as much as 90% of the world’s emissions, predominantly concentrated in well-developed and industrialised nations in Western Europe, North America and the Arabian Gulf, yet Africa and Central Asia are likely to face the most climate disruption. 

Another report, released by Unicef, showed that the 33 countries labelled as “extremely high risk” in the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) are responsible for just 9% of the world’s carbon footprint. 

Lifestyle changes can be powerful

One of the most impactful mitigation measures, according to the leaked draft, is individual lifestyle change. 

“Individuals can contribute to overcoming barriers and enable climate change mitigation,” says the report. Though governments and businesses must pave the way for large-scale transformations in the global economy, scientists say that “collective action through formal social movements and informal lifestyle movements expands the potential for climate policy and supports system change.”

If just 10-30% of the world’s population changed their consumption habits, such as cutting high-emissions meat and dairy consumption, “new social norms would be established” to lower the world’s footprint. 

Source: Unsplash

Last year, Oslo-based nonprofit EAT published a food footprint report finding that if the 20 biggest economies significantly reduced meat and dairy consumption, as much as 40% of the total global carbon budget for food could be freed up.

Aside from reducing meat intake, the panel advises to lower the use of air conditioning, avoiding flying and driving SUVs—all of which are activities linked to incomes, again highlighting the inequality between rich and poor when it comes to emissions production. 

‘We leaked the report to ensure accountability’ 

In their statement explaining the decision to leak the report, Scientist Rebellion said: “There’s no time for continued inaction – the people deserve to know now what our corporate-owned politicians have done to them.”

“We leaked the report because governments – pressured and bribed by fossil fuel and other industries, protecting their failed ideology and avoiding accountability – have edited the conclusions before official reports were released in the past,” it continued. “We leaked it to show that scientists are willing to disobey and take personal risk to inform the public.”

“The report explicitly states that incremental change is not a viable option.”

Lead image courtesy of Unsplash.


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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