IPCC Unsummarized: Unmasking Clear Warnings on Overshoot, Techno-fixes, and the Urgency of Climate Justice

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IPCC Unsummarized: Unmasking Clear Warnings on Overshoot, Techno-fixes, and the Urgency of Climate Justice is a joint analysis produced by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the Heinrich Boell Foundation, examining the stark and surprising gap between IPCC consensus and the mitigation pathways emphasized in the Working Group III report, particularly in the Summary for Policymakers.

The IPCC Working Group III report, Mitigation of Climate Change affirms why a rapid and equitable phaseout of fossil fuels must be the centerpiece of any science-based strategy to avert catastrophic levels of global warming. Findings show how pathways that rely on speculative technologies like carbon capture and storage and technological carbon dioxide removal will cost lives and inflict further irreversible harm to humans and natural systems, particularly in the most vulnerable communities.

Yet, these warnings are buried and downplayed in the report and the Summary for Policymakers. Instead, documents outline models and pathways that rely on precisely such technologies, project continued use of fossil fuels for decades, and overwhelmingly assume that the world will go beyond 1.5°C for decades or longer – with surprisingly little attention paid to the human and environmental consequences such assumptions entail.

The analysis highlights several core themes: 

  • IPCC reports on physical science and climate impacts must inform mitigation choices.
  • Limitations in modeled mitigation pathways and political pressure lead to dangerous overemphasis on speculative technologies and future action.
  • Modeling problems are compounded by political pressure to avoid policy prescription in the Summary for Policymakers, particularly from fossil fuel-producing countries.
  • Rapid fossil fuel phaseout remains the clearest and most certain path to avoid overshoot and prevent irreversible impacts.
  • Carbon capture and storage is a costly extension of the fossil fuel industry.
  • Technological carbon dioxide removal methods are risky, unproven, and obstruct climate progress.
  • Mitigation measures must be grounded in social justice and equity.

The analysis builds upon the organizations’ previous examination of the IPCC Working Group II report, Beyond the Limits: New IPCC WG II Report Highlights How Gambling on Overshoot is Pushing the Planet Past a Point of No Return

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