“It’s like a turbo charger” for some of the legal strategies that Greenpeace and other organizations have pursued in court for years, said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International. Earlier this year, Greenpeace successfully sued Royal Dutch Shell in a Dutch court using evidence from a previous UN report.
“I just expect the pace and volume of calls to action, whether in the courtrooms, on the street or in the committee hearing rooms, will be clearer and bigger than ever,” said Morgan.
Hours after the report was released, demonstrations were scheduled in London and other cities later this month.
The report shows that if greenhouse gas emissions remain at the same level or are only marginally reduced, continued warming and worsening effects will be the result for at least the rest of the century. But if governments drastically reduce emissions immediately, they can stabilize the climate with a warming of around 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
The earth has already warmed up about 1.1 degrees Celsius, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
Despite the jolt the report sent to world capitals, it was clear that some of the biggest polluters, including China and the United States, were unlikely to be the kind of immediate fossil fuel shift scientists say they are is required to reduce the rise in global average temperatures to 1.5 or even 2 degrees Celsius, the higher Limit of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, an agreement between nations to combat global warming. Almost every nation that has signed the treaty is far from fulfilling its commitment.
At that point in time, any fraction of warming would bring increasingly devastating floods, deadlier heat waves and worsening droughts, and accelerated sea level rise that could threaten the very existence of some island nations, the report said.
The United States, which has historically pumped more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other country, committed in April to roughly halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. While this is an ambitious goal, it is somewhat below the legally anchored goal of the European Union and significantly below that of the United Kingdom.