So what did the latest IPCC report say?
It’s got buried in the news by the invasion of Ukraine, but the latest assessment report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives the starkest warning yet about the climate crisis. TTL’s Ann Link highlights the findings and conclusions we can’t afford to ignore
Since 1990 – and at fairly random intervals since then, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) has published major reports assessing the latest available information about climate change. These assessment reports have been described as “the biggest peer review process in the scientific community” – and arguably are the most influential science-based reports guiding global action on climate change.
The sixth and latest IPCC report was published at the end of February. Overshadowed by the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces four days earlier, the report makes for horrendous and disturbing reading. In short, the report says that:
- It is now established fact that human-caused emissions “have led to an increased frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events”
- There is a considerable risk of tipping points in which changes cannot be reversed even if emissions cease
- Some species may not recover from disruption caused by habitat change
- If global warming passes 1.50C “human and natural systems will face additional severe risks”.
The report concludes that nearly half the world’s population now lives in areas highly vulnerable to global warming impacts such as flood and drought. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the report as an ‘atlas of human suffering’.
Co-chair of the report working-group Hans-Otto Pörtner warns: “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”
The report does offer some hope, stressing it is not too late to avoid the worst changes, and it will be cheaper for governments to act now rather than later. It also points out that even avoiding rises in global warming of a fraction of a degree will help to save lives. But you do wonder if the scientists needed to say this for their own comfort.
We have almost got used to stark warnings such as these. And we assume that surely with such warnings, action will be taken. But carbon emissions continue to rise, and post-Covid, the world appears to being prioritising economic recovery at almost any cost to the planet. War in Ukraine is another tragic distraction, itself funded by sales of Russian gas. But if we are going to take advantage of that ‘brief and rapidly closing window’, we all need to fight for global action now. Delay truly is now deadly.
We all have to prepare for the effects already “baked in”. Next month, I’ll look at what actions our councils are taking.