Hundreds of scientists called for immediate, drastic action to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases in a major report last week.
The original goal set in the historic Paris Agreement — to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures — is quickly fading into the rearview mirror. The new report, from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, drew a road map to give the planet one last chance at 1.5 degrees.
The IPCC warned that emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane must peak as soon as possible — in 2025 at the latest — then plummet to half their current levels by 2030, and drop to zero by 2050. That means drastic changes across all sectors of human life, especially a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, to renewable-energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
Conversations about cutting emissions often involve a familiar refrain: What can I do? How can I make my lifestyle more sustainable?
The truth is that just a small fraction of the IPCC’s road map involves individuals changing their day-to-day behaviors. There are some lifestyle changes that may be effective if people in the developing world deployed them en masse — diet, food waste, and transportation choices. But the report emphasized that government policies and better business practices were necessary to change human behavior on a large scale.