World climate report: IPCC issues warning and calls for immediate action

The IPCC report highlights incomparable weather extremes and an intensification of global warming. However, it also shows what can now be done to protect the planet  

Pollution factory
    • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues warning that human-made climate change is almost irreversible
    • Weather and climate extremes are intensifying worldwide
    • Despite the precarious situation, it is possible to influence the course of climate change

Which was warned against, is now occurring

On the 19th of August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the sixth World Climate Report, declaring that human activities have warmed the climate by 1,07 degrees Celsius from the late 09th century to the last decade. This illustrates that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, the oceans and the land. Soon it will be impossible to prevent the earth from warming by 2021 degrees Celsius, if not exceeding 1,5 degrees Celsius. As a result, the extent of the changes and the current state of the entire climate system is unprecedented over many centuries.

"This report is a reality check. We now have a much clearer picture of past, present and future climates, which is critical to understanding where we are going, what can be done and how we can prepare."

(Masson-Delmotte, paleoclimatologist, co-chair of the IPCC working group)

The IPCC report gives a clear warning

The consequences are weather and climate extremes such as heat waves, heavy precipitation, droughts and tropical cyclones. The warming is expected to exceed the 20 degree target in the next 1,5 years, unless immediate action is taken. Only recent events such as the floods in Germany or the fires in Greece make the urgency and relevance of the results clear.

The moral aspect should also not be ignored. Studies of McKinsey prove that the poorest communities are often the least likely to contribute to climate change, but are most affected by it. In urban regions, too, the socially disadvantaged, minorities, the disabled and women are most severely affected by the consequences of extreme weather conditions. In addition, a report recently published by Swiss Re suggests that the economy will also experience heavy GDP losses as a result of climate change.

Thus, short-term and drastic actions are now required. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and positive commitments to protect the climate. While many effects are now inevitable, there are still many productive options for redirecting the future course of climate change. The 1,5 degree target is not out of reach. To achieve this, the consequences must be limited by 2050 at the latest, which means to aim for net zero emissions and rapid, short-term decarbonization on the industrial side.

Each region will be affected differently

Warming differs depending on the region - it is twice as high in the Arctic as the global average. What people experience is determined by their location. However, the report assumes that climate change will increase in all regions in the coming years. While global warming of 1,5 degrees Celsius would lead to more frequent heat waves as well as longer warm and shorter cold seasons, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health with a warming of 2 degrees Celsius.

IPCC

© IPCC

On #ShowYourStripes, it is possible to access catchy infographics, which reveal exactly how the climate has changed in a particular region. Based on the simple principle of choosing a continent and then a country, the program generates a diagram of local global warming from 1901 to 2020. The infographic creates the mean temperature for a year and lines them up in the form of narrow colored stripes so that a barcode is created. With light blue for cool and dark red for very warm, global warming can be seen over the years. In the following it is representative of the entire planet. 

ShowYourStripes

Average Temperature Earth 1850-2020 | © Show Your Stripes

5 Risk prognoses of the IPCC report 

Apart from the temperature, climate change brings about different changes in different regions. It is about changes in wind, snow and ice, wetness and drought, as well as coastal areas and oceans. The most vehement changes are about:

  1. Intensification of the water cycle
  2. Rise of the sea level
  3. Change in the oceans
  4. Melting of the ice
  5. Weather extremes

1. Intensification of the water cycle

The intensification of the water cycle due to climate change promotes two extremes: precipitation and the associated floods as well as droughts. In short, heavy rainy and dry periods. More frequent heavy rain in high latitudes and the Pacific region, such as in Asia and West Africa, as well as a decrease in rainfall in parts of the subtropics and tropics.

2. Rise of the sea level

The sea level will continue to rise in the coastal areas. Even in the optimistic scenario of the IPCC. The result: frequent, severe flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. And thus extreme sea level events that previously only happened once in a hundred years - but could now occur annually.

3. Change in the oceans

More marine heat waves and the warming, acidification and lower oxygen content of the oceans are forecast. In a clear causal connection with global warming. These changes affect the ecosystems of the oceans as well as the people who live and depend on the coasts.

4. Melting of the ice

According to the IPCC, the man-made rise in temperature increases the thawing of permafrost soils, the loss of seasonal snow cover, the melting of glaciers and the loss of Arctic sea ice. The melting of Greenland's ice sheet is also closely related to human activities, while this security does not apply to the Antarctic ice sheet. What is certain, however, is that the ice will continue to melt irrevocably.

5. Weather extremes

More and more weather and climate extremes occur worldwide. Since even very small changes in temperature can have major effects, such extremes are to be expected more and more frequently. The IPCC sees particular risks in cities and coastal regions. The reason for this is, on the one hand, the dense development, which could cause severe heat waves to fail. On the other hand, seaside locations have to be prepared for more flood events due to flooding, heavy rainfall and rising sea levels.

IPCC-Climate-Change-2021-Report-Human-activities-are-making-extreme

© IPCC

What are the implications?

While there are many effects of climate change that are irreversible, there are positive commitments to limit them. To this end, the report takes a physico-scientific point of view: The cumulative CO2 emissions, other greenhouse gas emissions and CH4 emissions must be reduced. This reduction in turn improves aerosol pollution and air quality, giving a ray of hope in terms of design and optimization scope.

The COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow in November is eagerly awaited, where long-term emission reduction targets and short-term immediate measures are to be presented. The summit will bring all parties together to accelerate action to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - Work in Progress

In contrast to the fifth assessment report by the IPCC, the new sixth is making some progress. More specifically, it reflects important advances in attribution research, the science of the role of climate change in intensifying certain weather and climatic events. The result: For the first time, individual weather events are clearly assigned to climate change. The researchers calculate to what extent climate change has made changes such as weather extremes more likely. And show that events such as heat waves in the western United States would with a high degree of certainty not have been possible without man-made climate change. Facts instead of guesswork. Evidence instead of justification.

Just as innovative: the exact addressing of so-called tipping points. Points, the exceeding of which causes an irreversible change in the climate system. This makes it possible to determine the probability of events, the occurrence of which would be triggered by the escape of CO2 into the atmosphere. At the same time, the scientists have made significant progress in so-called climate sensitivity. The degree to which the earth reacts sensitively to more greenhouse gases.

About the IPCC

The report is based on the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body for the scientific assessment of climate change. Founded in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the IPCC makes it easier for political decision-makers to understand scientific assessments of climate change, its effects and risks, and to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies. For the IPCC reports, researchers from 195 member states evaluate scientific papers that are published every year on climate change. The resulting reports are considered consensus among the research community. 

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