The UN’s new IPCC report on the mitigation of climate change says that immediate and deep emissions reductions are needed to limit global warming, along with removing carbon dioxide back out of the air in future. Meanwhile, the world’s governments are urging fossil fuel companies to drill for more oil and gas as fast as possible to make up for sanctions on Russia. What on earth is going on?
The job of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is not to conduct research or to express opinions, but to assess the scientific literature. This primarily means papers accepted in academic journals prior to a cut-off date. In the case of this latest report, that was back in October 2021.
Since then, wholesale prices of most fossil fuels have more than doubled. So, what to make of the IPCC’s conclusions? Does Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make it easier or harder to stop climate change? The answer depends heavily on how you frame the problem.
Using the “emitter responsibility” framing adopted by the IPCC – and hence by almost everyone else, including the world’s governments and corporations – climate change means emitters need to reduce “their” emissions. Vendors of the products that cause those emissions are mere bystanders.
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