Recently, a lot of attention has been brought to the latest climate change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). You may think that you need to be a scientist to be able to understand it or that you are not concerned about whatever it says. You also maybe just don’t have the time to dig into it. Still, that report is an important piece of information that concerns all of us, and grasping its main points is within everyone’s reach. So, what’s the fuss about?
The IPCC is the part of the United Nations that is responsible for evaluating and assessing science that relates to climate change. Founded in 1988, it frequently releases reports that describes the current knowledge about climate change, its risks, potential future implications, and suggests guidelines for policy makers.
In August 2021, the IPCC released its sixth comprehensive Assessment Report. 234 authors from all over the world worked on this document of almost 4 000 pages which describes and synthesizes the latest findings about climate change, and which contains fundamental information for international negotiations about our climate. With the COP26 in Glasgow scheduled in a few months, those findings are now more important than ever. Hence the fuss. Also, they could be described as quite dramatic.
Key findings of the report
There is of course a lot of information in the document, but the major findings can be summarized in a couple of key points. One of the main conclusions is that humans are indisputably responsible for the unprecedented warming rate of the climate. The report states that the warming is driven by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, such as CO2 and methane (CH4). In addition, irreversible changes to the climate (so-called tipping points) are getting dangerously close. If temperatures keep rising, many natural systems could be severely affected permanently: for example, forests could be releasing carbon dioxide and seas could start rising rapidly.
Nevertheless, human-induced changes on the climate already have severe consequences all over the world. Hot extremes have become more common and are likely to increase both in frequency and intensity in the future. The same applies for heavy precipitations in many regions of the world, as well as droughts. Daily news reports about flooding and forest fires in many parts of the world are an alarming reminder of this severe reality.
And unfortunately, the clock is ticking fast. If no strong actions are taken today, a global warming of 1.5°C to 2°C will be exceeded during this century. More precisely, surface warming is projected to reach 1.5°C to 1.6°C in the next twenty years, and whatever we do, global surface temperatures will continue to increase at least until 2050. The goal of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming well below 2°C and preferably to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels, seems therefore quite difficult to reach.
So… Is it too late?
Feeling hopeless? Don’t be! Scientists say that if we act fast, we can avoid a catastrophe. But the challenge is unprecedented, and we need to strongly reduce greenhouse gas emissions right now to stabilize the rising temperatures. By drastically cutting emission, it will be possible to limit warming below 2°C. It is a huge common effort in which everyone will have to participate, but the worst thing that we could do right now is to give up. Governments, politicians and policy makers have to play their part, but every one of us can make a difference too through daily actions for the climate and sustainability. A lot of small positive changes can make a big difference. Step by step. Deed by deed.
If you want to read more, you can find the IPCC report here.
Share this Post