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


Our analysis of the latest report on climate change mitigation by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that while it warns of the negative consequences of relying on risk technologies if we overshoot 1.5°C, this is downplayed at the same time in favour of fossil fuels.

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Working Group III on the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented its report on climate change mitigation in early April. The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the Heinrich Böll Foundation have analysed the report: While it warns of the negative consequences of exceeding the 1.5°C mark (even for a short time), these warnings are downplayed with the climate future models that are prominently presented.

The Working Group III Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change affirms why a rapid and equitable phaseout of fossil fuels must be the centerpiece of any science-based mitigation strategy to confront the climate emergency. Like the two companion reports that preceded it, the Working Group III report demonstrates that climate change is not a future threat but a present emergency; that the scale and severity grow with each increment of warming; and that quickly ending reliance on the fossil fuels that drive the climate crisis is the fastest, surest, most effective way to avert climate catastrophe. The three Working Group reports reflect an undeniable scientific consensus about the urgency of the climate crisis, its primary causes, and the irreversible harm that will occur if warming surpasses 1.5°C, even temporarily. The Working Group III report also reaffirms the dangers of governments’ overreliance on unproven technologies like carbon capture and storage and technological carbon dioxide removal. Yet, these warnings are buried and downplayed in the report, particularly in the heavily negotiated Summary for Policymakers, among an array of 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 present briefing by CIEL and the Heinrich Böll Foundation examines that dangerous disconnect. Drawing on the full Working Group III report, the companion reports from Working Groups I and II, and the IPCC’s 2018 Special Report on 1.5°C, this briefing reveals a clear consensus within the IPCC on the urgent need to transition from fossil fuels, the necessity and feasibility of staying below 1.5°C, and the risks of overshoot and future techno-fixes. It highlights the stark and surprising gap between that consensus and the mitigation pathways emphasized in the Working Group III report, particularly in the Summary for Policymakers. It examines how core assumptions and biases built into integrated assessment models and the mitigation pathways they produce help create that gap by limiting our understanding of what futures are achievable. And it highlights how the political choices made in distilling the full Working Group III report and Technical Summaries into the Summary for Policymakers can further skew our understanding of the science, the options, and the risks that accompany climate mitigation choices.