The world’s leading climate scientists issued their harshest warning to date of the worsening climate emergency on Monday, with some of the changes that have already been initiated being considered “irreversible” for the centuries to come.
A highly anticipated report from the UN climate panel warns that limiting global warming to nearly 1.5 degrees Celsius or even 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels over the next two decades without immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions will be “unattainable will”. in greenhouse gas emissions.
The 1.5 degrees Celsius mark is a decisive global goal, because what are known as tipping points are also more likely. Tipping points refer to an irreversible change in the climate system that includes further global warming.
A firefighter is seen in silhouette as he burns the Blue Ridge Fire in Yorba Linda, California, United States on October 26, 2020.
Ringo Chiu | Reuters
With global warming of 2 degrees Celsius, heat extremes would often reach critical tolerance levels for agriculture and health, the report said.
UN Secretary General António Guterres described the report as “a red code for humanity”.
“The alarm bells are deafening and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are suffocating our planet and putting billions of people in imminent danger,” said Guterres.
The latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which were approved by 195 member states on Friday, deal with the physical-scientific basis of climate change and outline how humans are changing the planet. It is the first of four reports published as part of the IPCC’s current evaluation cycle, with the next reports expected to be published next year.
The first part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report offers world leaders a gold standard summary of modern climate science ahead of the UN climate talks, known as COP26, in early November.
Men gather sheep to rescue them from a progressive fire in Mugla, Marmaris district, on August 2, 2021, when the European Union sent aid to Turkey and volunteers joined firefighters to fight violent fires for a week which killed eight people.
Yasin Akgul | AFP | Getty Images
In response to the report’s release, the President’s US Envoy on Climate Change, John Kerry, said the report underscores the “overwhelming urgency of this moment”. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hoped this could be a “wake up call” for global leaders ahead of COP26.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said the report contained no real surprises. “We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we carry on as we are today and not without treating the crisis as a crisis.”
What does the report say?
Climate scientists said it was “clear” that human influence has warmed the global climate system, with observed changes already affecting all regions of the world.
Some of the changes in climate observed by researchers have been described as “unprecedented” while others – such as the sustained rise in sea levels – have been projected to be “irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.”
The report shows that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have been responsible for about 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming since 1850-1900, and notes that global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius on average over the next 20 years will.
A couple ride a pedal boat while smoke from nearby forest fires hangs over the city of Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Siberia on July 27, 2021.
DIMITAR DILKOFF | AFP | Getty Images
The UN climate panel says “strong and sustainable” reductions in carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change. Benefits like improved air quality would come quickly, while it could take 20 to 30 years for global temperatures to stabilize, she adds.
The IPCC report makes it clear that it’s not just about temperature. Climate change brings about different changes in different regions – and all of them will increase with further global warming.
These changes include more intense rainfall and associated floods, more intense droughts in many regions, and a sustained rise in sea levels in coastal areas over the course of the 21st century.
People are seen in an area affected by flooding caused by heavy rainfall in Bad Münstereifel, Germany, 19 July 2021.
Wolfgang Rattay | Reuters
It follows a series of overwhelming extreme weather events around the world. For example, in recent weeks floods have wreaked havoc in Europe, China and India, clouds of toxic smoke have blanketed Siberia and forest fires have spiraled out of control in the US, Canada, Greece and Turkey.
Political decision-makers are under immense pressure to keep the promises made under the Paris Agreement in the run-up to COP26. Yet while world leaders publicly acknowledge the need to transition to a low-carbon society, the world’s fossil fuel dependence is expected to get worse.
The IPCC’s fifth assessment report, published in 2014, made the most important scientific contribution to the Paris Agreement.
Almost 200 countries ratified the Paris Climate Agreement at COP21 in 2015 and agreed to limit the rise in temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level and to make efforts to limit the rise in temperature to 1.5 ° C.
It remains a major focus ahead of COP26, although some climate scientists now believe that achieving that latter goal is already “practically impossible”.
Local residents wade through flood waters on a flooded road amid heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China, July 20, 2021.
China Daily | Reuters
The IPCC previously recognized that the necessary transition from fossil fuels will be a huge undertaking that will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented change” in all areas of society.
It underscored the point that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius “could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and just society”, with clear benefits for both humans and natural ecosystems.
However, a UN analysis published last year found that the commitments made by countries around the world to curb greenhouse gas emissions were “very far” from the deep-seated measures needed to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.
What is the IPCC?
The IPCC is a UN body with 195 member states that evaluates science in relation to the climate crisis.
It was founded in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization to regularly inform world leaders about the extent of the climate catastrophe, its effects and risks, and to propose strategies for adaptation and containment.
It consists of three working groups. The first, Working Group I, deals with the physical and scientific principles of climate change. This group presented its contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC on Monday.
Working group II deals with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, and working group III evaluates mitigating climate change. A separate task force evaluates methods for measuring greenhouse gas emissions and emissions.
Thousands of climate scientists volunteer to keep up with the latest climate research to contribute to the work of the IPCC. The reports are drawn up and checked in several stages and are of fundamental importance for the international climate negotiations.
The reports of Working Groups II and III should be completed in February and March 2022, respectively. A final synthesis report will also be published next year.