An authoritative and sweeping new report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned the world is running out of time to make drastic cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and avert devastating climate breakdown.
The report, authored by 234 scientists in 66 countries, found “it is more likely than not” that the world will reach 1.5C sometime over the next 20 years. And far greater global warming is possible if little is done to tackle rapidly rising emissions. Temperatures currently stand at around 1.2C above pre-industrial levels.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the report, published on Monday, a “code red for humanity”.
He warned: “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. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.”
The report is clear that some consequences of the climate crisis are already locked in. It is “virtually certain” that global sea levels will continue to rise this century.
Sea levels will “remain elevated for thousands of years” as a result of ocean warming and melting ice sheets, the report warns. However it is still within our power to make a monumental difference to sea levels by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Beyond 2050, sea level projections become increasingly sensitive to the emission choices we are making today,” said Dr Bob Kopp, a lead author of the chapter addressing sea level rise, and director of the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Rutgers University.
‘Nobody is safe'
Inger Andersen, the executive director of the UN Environment Programme, is now telling the press conference that “the world listened, but it did not act strongly enough” on previous climate crisis warnings.
She adds: “Nobody is safe and it’s getting worse faster. We must treat climate change as an immediate threat.
“It’s time to get serious because every tonne of CO2 adds to global warming.”
Not enough countries have submitted plans for reaching net-zero carbon emissions in time for the November Cop26 summit, which is being held in Glasgow, she says.
World Meteorological Organisation head addresses conference
Petteri Taalas, the head of the World Meteorological Organisation, says there is still a chance to stop the worst effects of climate change.
The world could warm by 2.3C by the end of this century.
Extreme heat, forest fires, sea level rises, food crop loss and other problems could follow, Mr Taalas says.
Governments must also pay attention to climate adaptation, including by early-warning systems, he adds.
No surprises in IPCC report, says Thunberg
Greta Thunberg, the climate campaigner, has responded to the publication of the IPCC’s report.
She wrote on Twitter: “The new IPCC report contains no real surprises. It confirms what we already know from thousands previous studies and reports - that we are in an emergency. It’s a solid (but cautious) summary of the current best available science.
“It doesn't tell us what to do. It is up to us to be brave and take decisions based on the scientific evidence provided in these reports. We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis.”
14,000 studies assessed for new report
Experts assessed some 14,000 scientific papers in order to produce the IPCC’s latest report, the body said.
And 264 authors put the document together before several dozen countries signed off on its contents.
Changes to the Earth’s climate seen recently have been “unprecedented for thousands of years, or never seen before”, according to the IPCC’s Fanmao Zhai.
Sea levels have risen faster in the last 100 years than at any time in the last three millennia, he added. “The retreat of glaciers on a global scale since the 1950s is unprecedented in the last 2,000 years,” he said.
2C warming possible by mid-century
Drastically cutting carbon in the next couple of decades would “very likely” keep global heating “well below” 2C, IPCC expert Valerie Masson-Delmotte sats. Then temperatures will slowly come down.
If nothing changes, however, the atmosphere will warm by 2C by the middle of this century, she warns.
That figure is the upper limit deemed acceptable by countries which signed the Paris agreement in 2015.
The IPCC’s Fanmao Zhai says climate change will have varying effects on different biospheres, so we will see extreme flooding events in some parts of the world, while drought hits others at the same time.
The IPCC has produced an interactive atlas that allows users to see how the climate crisis will affect where they live. For more information click here.
How has COVID-19 affected the climate crisis?
International press is asking questions now. Valerie Masson-Delmotte is asked about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the climate crisis.
She said: “Our report shows that the lockdown drove temporary reductions in CO2 emissions, but these are temporary reductions and didn’t have a significant impact.”
She added that there has also been a temporary reduction in air pollutants.
And remember, to stay up to date with all our coverage of the climate crisis, sign up to the Independent Climate Newsletter here.
10 key takeaways from world’s most comprehensive climate assessment
Climate Correspondent Daisy Dunne has put together a handy summary of 10 of the IPCC report’s key findings.
These include that every region on Earth has already been affected by the climate crisis, CO2 levels are at the highest level in two million years, and changes to ice, oceans and sea levels are‘ irreversible for centuries’.
Read the full article here.
Wildfires tear through Greece
It was today reported that uncontrolled wildfires have forced thousands of people to flee their homes on the Greek island of Evia after a blaze ripped through vast areas of pristine forest.
Residents described losing entire villages to the flames while the country’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said Greece had suffered a “nightmarish summer”.
Meanwhile, the report concludes it is “virtually certain” that heatwaves - a key factor in wildfires - have become more frequent and more intense since the 1950s, with human-caused warming being “the main driver” of these increases.
Some of the heat extremes seen over the past decade would have been “extremely unlikely to occur” without the climate crisis, it adds.
‘We must enhance climate literacy'
Valerie Masson Delmotte, co-chair of working group I, said she hoped the IPCC report would “enhance climate literacy worldwide” and be used to help teach students and inform political decision-making.
“You can note that main headline statements, our key scientific findings, are expressed in plain language so that they are accessible to everyone,” she told a press conference.
“We also worked hard to make sure figures could be intuitively understood.
“What we really would like is that this whole report helps enhance climate literacy worldwide, is used in teaching worldwide for teenagers for students so that they can learn the latest, best available knowledge.”
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