New report is “code red for humanity” with many climate change effects now “irreversible”
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,” it warns. ”Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.”
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.
“It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” said IPCC Working Group I co-chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte.
”Yet the new report also reflects major advances in the science of attribution – understanding the role of climate change in intensifying specific weather and climate events such as extreme heat waves and heavy rainfall events.”
The report projects that in the coming decades climate changes will increase in all regions. For 1.5°C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health, the report shows.
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:
- 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.
“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai.
The report shows that human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate but warns the world is at imminent risk of hitting 1.5 degrees in the near term.
It warns the only way to prevent exceeding this threshold is by urgently stepping up adaptation efforts ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021.
Immediate action on energy is needed.
”This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet,” states UN India. ”There must be no new coal plants built after 2021.”
Further, it says OECD countries must phase out existing coal by 2030, with all others following suit by 2040. Countries should also end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy.
By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple and renewable energy investments should triple to maintain a net zero trajectory by mid-century.
Adaptation and resilience financing must become a priority to “protect the lives and livelihoods of those on the front lines of the climate crisis”.