Hesitation, that was yesterday. Action must now be taken, subito, i.e. on the spot. This year and not next, and that worldwide – that has long been the message of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate change is accelerating, consequences such as heat waves, floods and droughts are increasing and becoming more extreme. If world governments do not drastically reduce climate-damaging emissions within this decade, life on earth will become more unpredictable and dangerous for generations to come. What exactly has to happen?

“We scientists would like the about-face in climate protection, but also in adapting to the effects, to be tackled more clearly, courageously and faster,” says Matthias Garschagen of the German Press Agency. The climate researcher from the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich is co-author of the latest synthesis report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “It has recently been seen that you can also do about-turns quickly: the world is quite amazed at how quickly we are becoming independent of Russian gas, for example.”

Only: “There is definitely not enough happening,” says co-author Oliver Geden from the Foundation for Science and Politics in Berlin of the dpa. “Global climate policy promises more than is delivered.”

The possibilities have long been known

The medicine is well known: reducing climate-damaging emissions, making CO2 emissions so expensive that entrepreneurs invest in alternatives, planting trees instead of clearing forests, eating less meat because fattening and grazing causes a lot of CO2, better insulating buildings, fossil energies through renewables such as replacing wind power, expanding public transport, and: banning the combustion engine.

It would be a “fog candle” if the EU wanted to stick to the combustion engine as planned, even if only with climate-neutral fuels (e-fuels) from 2035, says Jochem Marotzke, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, the dpa . “There will only be tiny amounts of e-fuels, which you need for air travel, because it cannot be electrified.”

You could also describe something else as a smokescreen: “There is a dangerous tendency in parts of German politics,” says Garschagen. “Some think that if we develop technologies like carbon removal and storage, we could slow down the process of reducing emissions – but that’s wrong. We need removal AND big reductions to even be able to meet our climate protection goals.”

Germany is closer

“We will not be able to avoid capturing CO2 and pressing it into the ground,” says Marotzke. “Research on this needs to be funded more and there needs to be a set of rules.” The Federal Research Ministry has invested almost 50 million euros in such research programs.

According to the Paris climate agreement, the aim is to limit global warming to 1.5 or at most 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. It is already around 1.1 degrees. In Germany it is even higher because land regions warm up faster than the seas. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has already stated that the 1.5 degree target is practically impossible to achieve.

To achieve this, global CO2 emissions would have to fall by 48 percent by 2030 compared to 2019, according to the Federal Environment Agency. In fact, after the corona-related decline, the curve is pointing steeply upwards. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been warning for years that the 1.5-degree mark is already threatening to be exceeded by the early 2030s. And even in the best-case scenario of massive emissions cuts, it could be decades before temperatures drop below 1.5 degrees of warming. Marotzke emphasizes that the truth is that even limiting global warming to two degrees is “a daunting task”.

Aim might encourage fatalism

And another smoke screen that could cloud the view of what is necessary: ​​”With the 1.5-degree target, we may have tripped ourselves,” says Geden. “A lot of people think of a cliff: If it goes beyond that, it’s all over.” That could lead to fatalism, according to the motto, then you can leave it completely if it’s already too late. “The climate system doesn’t get out of control at 1.51 degrees,” he says. The exact number of degrees is secondary, the greatest possible climate effort is necessary because every tenth of a degree less warming reduces the risk of heat waves, heavy rainfall and droughts.

Marotzke doesn’t think much of doomsday scenarios either: “There will be no apocalypse.” Life is becoming more dangerous, but that it could no longer be possible on earth is wrong.

Garschagen emphasizes that climate protection is not only associated with costs and challenges: “For example, if we rebuild cities with more water, more greenery, more shade, if buildings and roofs are greened, they will also be more livable. Or if we use areas on which fodder maize for Pigs are grown for our meat consumption, would transform into meadow landscapes, that would also have social added value for local recreation.”

Oliver Geden: “Unfortunately, the reflex still persists: climate protection hurts. Or: we would earn more if we didn’t implement this or that measure. But: climate protection secures our prosperity in the medium term – we have to get there.”