IPCC Report III - Core elements & critical review

The last part of the IPCC report, which was presented on 04/04/22, was about the causes of climate change and how we can still mitigate the disaster.

This report is highly political and came under heavy fire in the previous, political review. Significantly, today's presentation of the executive summary to policymakers was delayed by several hours because, according to The Guardian, governments wanted to change the wording in many places at the last minute and apparently did so.

A previous leak of the report 6 months ago revealed, among other things, that the scientists called for a change in the capitalist growth paradigm and strongly recommended reducing animal agriculture as a key measure.

1. Status assessment of the UN Secretary General

In the foreword to the presentation, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that the report is, literally, "a litany of broken climate promises and lies by politicians and business leaders."

According to this, we are on the way to 3.2 °C warming by the end of the century. This does not even include tipping points and many feedback loops. Emissions should actually fall by 45% in 8 years, but according to current government pledges we will increase them by 14% in this period.

2. Our points of criticism of the presentation and the summary for politicians
  • In his address, the UN Secretary General speaks exclusively about fossil industries and the need to switch to renewable energy.
  • In the subsequent slide presentation, land use is repeatedly and forcefully identified as the core problem, but its main cause, namely animal agriculture, is not named. Reforestation is presented as an absolutely necessary key solution, but it is not explained where the land for this should come from.
  • In the entire presentation, animal agriculture is not mentioned with a single word.
  • Also not mentioned are (i) the carbon opportunity costs of animal agriculture, (ii) the issue of short-lived climate forcers, and (iii) methane emissions from animal agriculture (those from fossil industries are explicitly named).
  • In the area of individual change, "walking" and "bicycling" are seen as having the greatest potential! A plant-based diet is only mentioned verbally as an additional option.
  • Nutrition appears once in the slides, but only the shift to a "balanced, sustainable, healthy" diet. Words like "plant-based," "reduction of animal products," and the like are not used.
  • Animal agriculture as a problem and the plant-based food system as a solution are similarly ignored in the crucial written summary for policymakers ("Summary for Policymakers").
3. Our evaluation

From our point of view, lobbying was clearly involved here, because the 2900-page long version explicitly mentions a plant-based diet. This is also seen as having the greatest potential at the demand level (see the following examples).

Example 1: In the following diagram, the report (page SPM-50) compares the annual savings potentials of the energy and agricultural sectors. According to this, a total of approx. 14 Gt CO2e can be saved in the energy sector (top) and approx. 15 Gt CO2e in the agricultural sector (bottom), even without carbon opportunity costs. The sectors are thus at least equally important in a reduction strategy.

Example 2: In the overall report, the change to a plant-based diet is considered to have the greatest disruptive potential (page TS-98).

Example 3: The overall report shows on page 5-98 that governments can force and accelerate a change to a plant-based diet through appropriate measures.

4. Further points of criticism

Critique of growth, critique of capitalism and post-growth economics were not mentioned in the presentation and are also not found in the summary for politicians. Instead, numerous references to "opportunities" are given there and new technologies are presented as solutions.

In the 2900-page report, however, there are some passages criticizing capitalism, including "degrowth" (page 3-86):

“Con­ver­sely, several stu­dies find that only a GDP non-grow­th/­de­growth or post-growth ap­proach al­low to re­ach cli­mate sta­bi­liz­a­tion be­low 2°C (Hardt and O’Neill 2017; D’Alessandro et al. 2020; Hi­ckel and Kal­lis 2020; Nieto et al. 2020), or to mi­ni­mize the risks of re­li­ance on high en­ergy-GDP de­co­u­pling, large-scale CDR and large-scale re­ne­wa­ble en­ergy de­ploy­ment (Key­ßer and Len­zen 2021).”

5. Bottom line

The scientific facts about the current situation are well known and were merely repeated. A surprise was the clear statements of the UN Secretary General, who called politicians and business leaders deceivers and liars.

Scandalous from our point of view and probably fatal is the obvious lobby pressure on the summary and presentation of the findings. Even if the knowledge exists and has been written down in the 2900-page report, only adequate, uncompromising communication will ultimately lead to the necessary political, economic, systemic and individual changes.

landwirtschaft.jetzt will not be discouraged by this, however, and will continue to provide lobby-free information regarding the immediate need for a plant-based agricultural and food system.