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World close to ‘irreversible’ climate breakdown, warn major studies

Key UN reports published in last two days warn urgent and collective action needed – as oil firms report astronomical profits

The climate crisis has reached a “really bleak moment”, one of the world’s leading climate scientists has said, after a slew of major reports laid bare how close the planet is to catastrophe.

Collective action is needed by the world’s nations more now than at any point since the second world war to avoid climate tipping points, Prof Johan Rockström said, but geopolitical tensions are at a high.

He said the world was coming “very, very close to irreversible changes … time is really running out very, very fast”.

Emissions must fall by about half by 2030 to meet the internationally agreed target of 1.5C of heating but are still rising, the reports showed – at a time when oil giants are making astronomical amounts of money.

On Thursday, Shell and TotalEnergies both doubled their quarterly profits to about $10bn. Oil and gas giants have enjoyed soaring profits as post-Covid demand jumps and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The sector is expected to amass $4tn in 2022, strengthening calls for heavy windfall taxes to address the cost of living crisis and fund the clean energy transition.

All three of the key UN agencies have produced damning reports in the last two days. The UN environment agency’s report found there was “no credible pathway to 1.5C in place” and that “woefully inadequate” progress on cutting carbon emissions means the only way to limit the worst impacts of the climate crisis is a “rapid transformation of societies”.

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