The science has spoken: act quickly, before it’s too late

The International Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is the international group of climate scientists tasked with providing unbiased evaluations of climate change and its impacts. The IPCC’s assessment reports are a culmination of hundreds of scientists taking several years to review thousands of sources of scientific research. In other words the IPCC are, literally, the greatest minds on the planet analysing climate change.  

Last week, the Panel released its regular assessment report on climate change, making global headlines with warnings we are almost out of time to limit damaging levels of warming. While reports on the urgency of tackling climate change are familiar, the reasons this publication is striking are twofold. Firstly, it estimates unprecedented levels of change are needed, and in a much shorter timeframe, to limit global temperature increases to within 1.5oC or 2oC. Secondly, that even half a degree matters and the difference between the impact of 1.5oC and 2oC on the world’s ecosystems and people is far worse than originally thought.

The world has already warmed by 1oC since pre-industrial levels and impacts, in the form of heatwaves, floods and storms, are being felt not just in other far-flung countries, but at home as well.  If there is a positive message that can be taken from this report, it is that limiting warming to 1.5oC is possible and affordable – just with a considerable amount of effort. And unlike previous IPCC assessment reports, this one comes at a time when there is a global consensus through the Paris Agreement on the need to address climate change, meaning support is stronger than it has ever been.

To meet the 1.5oC target, much more will need to be done in the months ahead. We know that investment in low-carbon energy and infrastructure is a fundamental part of the transition to a low-carbon world so the case for a carbon price that properly and accurately reflects the true cost of carbon is vital for the delivery of this transition.

For SSE, the report reinforces the direction of travel for decarbonisation and confirms SSE’s purpose to be a leading provider of energy and related services in a low-carbon world. This is supported by SSE’s new medium-term carbon ambition, to reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generated by 50% by 2030, compared to 2018 levels. And we look forward to do more in the UK and Ireland to bring about a quicker transition towards a low-carbon world through further investment in onshore wind, offshore wind and new low-carbon technologies.

About the author

Rachel McEwen Chief Sustainability Officer

Rachel joined SSE in 2007 and, as Chief Sustainability Officer, is responsible for its sustainability strategy, climate change policy, community funds and corporate heritage. She is a non-Executive Director of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, the SSE subsidiary that owns and operates the electricity distribution and transmission networks in the north of Scotland. External to SSE, Rachel was Chair of the Leadership Group of Living Wage Scotland between 2014 and 2018 is a member of the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission and a member of the Fair Tax Mark Board.

Read more articles by Rachel McEwen