IPCC report: 10 key findings from major global climate assessment

The second chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most detailed report in seven years was published on Monday

Louise Boyle,Harry Cockburn
Monday 28 February 2022 18:06 GMT
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The world’s leading authority on the climate crisis, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has published the second chapter of its most sweeping assessment in seven years.

The report describes how the climate crisis is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet, and calls for urgent, transformative action to secure our future.

On Monday, a 36-page summary report was released to the public. Here are 10 of the key takeaways.

Most European countries to see drop in agricultural production

“Substantive” falls in crops are projected for large swathes of Europe this century, according to the IPCC report. Though parts of northern Europe will see some gains, they will not be enough to offset the overall decline. While irrigation is an effective adaptation option for agriculture, it will be increasingly limited by water availability especially if the average global temperature rises above 3C.

Damage from flooding to increase 10-fold by 2100

Coastal flood damage represents an “existential threat” to communities and cultural heritage. Damage is projected to increase at least tenfold globally by 2100. However the report warns that these are conservative estimates with greater damage possible without more adaptation and mitigation.

Africa has contributed the least emissions and is facing some of worst risks

Africa has contributed among the least to greenhouse gas emissions yet losses and damages are widespread including biodiversity loss, water shortages, reduced food production, loss of lives and hampered economic growth.

In Africa, agricultural productivity growth has been reduced by 34 per cent since 1961 due to climate change, more than any other region.

The climate crisis will take a heavy toll on Africa’s ecosystems. Above 1.5C of warming, half of species on the continent are projected to lose more than 30 per cent of their population. At 2C, 7–18 per cent of species are at risk of extinction, and over 90 per cent of East African coral reefs are projected to be severely degraded by bleaching.

Ukraine’s scientists forced to withdraw after Russian invasion

Ukrainian scientists involved in preparing the report were unable to complete work on the final details due to Russia’s invasion of the country. During a briefing on Sunday, Professor Daniela Schmidt, a IPCC lead author from the University of Bristol, made an emotional statement about the conflict.

“The Ukrainian delegation has asked all of us to continue and has expressed how upset they are that this will distract from the importance of the report,” Professor Schmidt said.

Referring to Ukrainian invasion, she added: “The head of the Russian delegation has expressed very clearly that this is not the wish of all the Russian people, and the Russian people were not asked.”

On Tuesday, Russian scientists and scientific journalists published an open letter strongly protesting the attacks on Ukraine.

“Many of us have relatives, friends and scientific colleagues living in Ukraine. Our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought together against Nazism,” they wrote. The war would turn Russia into a “pariah,” they noted, and that conducting scientific research would be “unthinkable” without international cooperation.

On Sunday night at the closing session of the IPCC’s two week long meeting, the head of the Ukrainian delegation spoke of the importance of building a climate-resilient future. "Human-induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots – fossil fuels – and our dependence on them."

Wildfires rising and creating feedback loops

Wildfires already generate one third of ecosystem carbon emissions, but these amounts will continue to rise, causing feedback loops as further carbon is released. If temperatures rise 4C on average, wildfire frequency would rise by 30 per cent.

Extinctions in Australasia

Major impacts are occurring across many natural systems, with some experiencing or at risk of irreversible change. The Bramble Cay melomys, an endemic mammal, became extinct due to loss of habitat associated with sea-level rise and storm surges in the Torres Strait, a body of water between Australia and New Guinea. Extensive coral bleaching events and loss of temperate kelp forests have occurred, due to ocean warming and marine heatwaves. Droughts have caused financial and emotional stress in farm households and rural communities.

Glacier outbursts

In mountainous areas of Asia, the IPCC describes how “glacier lake outburst flood” will threaten the security of local and downstream communities. Permafrost warming and increased thaw depth in built-up areas are being exacerbated by human activities. By 2050, it is likely that 69 per cent of fundamental human infrastructure in the Pan Arctic will be at risk, the report says.

Misinformation is a major problem in the US

Despite the fact that it is “unequivocal” that the climate crisis is human-caused, the IPCC says, misinformation and politicization of climate science has “created polarization in public and policy domains in North America”. The authors say that this had limited climate action, and allowed vested interests to undermine science, playing down the risk and urgency.

The public’s misperception of climate risks and polarized public support for climate actions is delaying urgent adaptation, the IPCC says. Furthermore, fragmented responsibility for planning, disaster management, and mitigation and adaptation actions hinders the development of policies.

Cities: problems and solutions

More than half the global population live in cities - making them vulnerable to climate change but also the potential source of large-scale adaptation. Heatwaves, urban heat islands, extreme precipitation and storms, in combination with rapid urbanization and lack of climate sensitive planning, is affecting marginalised urban populations and key infrastructure, particularly in coastal cities.

The IPCC expressed high confidence in the economic and ecological feasibility of so-called “green infrastructure”, as well as sustainable urban water management, once social and political barriers. However the report warns that as global heat rises limits to adaptation will be reached in more areas for example, coastal communities, water security, agricultural production, and human health.

Mental health gets first mention

The sixth assessment from the IPCC assessed the impacts of climate change on mental health for the first time, and was linked rising heat, trauma from extreme events, and loss of livelihoods and culture. Children, teens, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions are particularly affected.

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