Date: 09 Aug 2021
IPCC deliver their starkest warning yet
The IPCC delivered their starkest warning yet about the deepening climate emergency, projecting climate changes to increase across all regions in the coming decades.
“Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a code red for humanity.The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.” U.N. Secretary-General, António Guterres.
Sixth Assessment Report
The IPCC is now in its sixth assessment cycle, with the first part of the Sixth Assessment Report published today providing world leaders with a summation of modern climate science ahead of COP26, in early November.
Originally scheduled for release in April 2021, the report was delayed for several months by the COVID-19 pandemic, as work in the scientific community including the IPCC shifted online. It is the first instalment of four reports released under the IPCC’s current assessment cycle, with subsequent reports scheduled to be published next year.
The Working Group I report is the first instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), and deals with the physical science basis of climate change and outlines how humans are altering the planet. The report was approved by 195 member states on Friday.
Working Group I Report
The report is unequivocal in its finding that human activity is responsible for climate change, showing that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900.
The new report also makes clear that the warming we've experienced to date has made changes to many of our planetary support systems that are irreversible on timescales of centuries to millennia.
The report provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next 20 years, and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.
But it is not just about temperature. Climate change is bringing multiple different changes in different regions – which will all increase with further warming. These include changes to wetness and dryness, to winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans. For example:
The Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) as well as additional materials and information are available HERE.
- Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.
- Climate change is affecting rainfall patterns. In high latitudes, precipitation is likely to increase, while it is projected to decrease over large parts of the subtropics. Changes to monsoon precipitation are expected, which will vary by region.
- Coastal areas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.
- Further warming will amplify permafrost thawing, and the loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic sea ice.
- Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them, and they will continue throughout at least the rest of this century.
- For cities, some aspects of climate change may be amplified, including heat (since urban areas are usually warmer than their surroundings), flooding from heavy precipitation events and sea level rise in coastal cities
Urgent Action Needed
The report also shows that human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate. The evidence is clear that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of climate change, even as other greenhouse gases and air pollutants also affect the climate. Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions.
IPCC Report - Quick Facts
- Global surface temperature was 1.09C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.
- Each of the last four decades has been warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850, with the earth now 1.1C hotter than pre-industrial times
- The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850.
- It is "virtually certain" that hot extremes including heatwaves have become more frequent and more intense since the 1950s, while cold events have become less frequent and less severe
- "Some recent hot extremes observed over the past decade would have been extremely unlikely to occur without human influence on the climate system,"
- Heavy precipitation events, such as rain and snow, have increased since the 1950s, for which human induced climate change is the likely cause
- The recent rate of sea level rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971
- There is more CO2 in the atmosphere than any time in at least 2 million years. Methane and nitrous oxide, which are also greenhouse gases, are at higher concentrations than at any time in at least 800,000 years.
- Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level
- The oceans will continue to warm and become more acidic. Mountain and polar glaciers will continue melting for decades or centuries.
- Continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle, including its variability, global monsoon precipitation and the severity of wet and dry event.
Scientists are observing unprecedented changes in every region and across the whole climate system. The planet is warmer, Arctic ice is shrinking, and sea levels are rising.
For the first time, the Sixth Assessment Report provides a more detailed regional assessment of climate change, including a focus on useful information that can inform risk assessment, adaptation, and other decision-making, and a new framework that helps translate physical changes in the climate – heat, cold, rain, drought, snow, wind, coastal flooding and more – into what they mean for society and ecosystems.
This regional information can be explored in detail in the newly developed Interactive Atlas interactive-atlas.ipcc.ch as well as regional fact sheets, the technical summary, and underlying report which can be accessed HERE.
What is the Sixth Assessment Report?
IPCC Press Conference for the launch of the Working Group 1 Report