The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body that assesses scientific data related to climate change. The IPCC provides periodic assessments of the physical basis of climate change, its impacts, future risks, as well as options for adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.
The synthesis report presented on March 20, 2023, represents the fourth and final part of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) by the IPCC, bringing together the key conclusions from the previous three sections. These three sections covered the physical basis of climate change (August 2021), impacts (February 2022), and adaptation strategies (April 2022) to climate change, as well as ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The purpose of this synthesis report is to provide a condensed format of the IPCC AR6 report that can serve as scientific support for global actions on climate change. For instance, the synthesis will be used at the COP 28 meeting scheduled for November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. COP28 will evaluate the progress of various nations in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The IPCC AR6 synthesis is largely grim, yet it also contains an optimistic message. While we can and must discuss adaptation strategies, these cannot substitute for emissions reduction. On the contrary, the most effective adaptation strategies can only be implemented if we manage to significantly reduce emissions. The risks associated with surpassing the 1.5°C threshold are immense and will directly impact our quality of life, disrupt global supply chains, increase the risk of poverty, and endanger countless human lives.
Among the key conclusions of the IPCC AR6 synthesis report are:
- A warning that the pace and scale of climate change actions are insufficient to mitigate its impacts. Rapid, substantial, and sustained reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is necessary alongside adaptation measures to address the issue of climate change.
- Human-induced global warming (through activities like fossil fuel combustion and deforestation) has led to an increase in the global average temperature by about 1.1°C compared to pre-industrial levels. The impacts of climate change (e.g., more heatwaves, prolonged droughts, intense rainfall) on populations, the global economy, and nature are already being observed.
- Unfortunately, those least responsible for climate change are the ones most affected. Mortality due to extreme temperatures has risen in every global region. Nearly half of the world’s population lives in regions highly vulnerable to climate change. In recent years, deaths caused by floods, droughts, and storms have been 15 times higher in vulnerable regions.
- Rapid and substantial reduction (by 50% by 2030) of greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to keep temperature increase below 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. It’s important to note that any increase in the global average temperature leads to more extremes.
- A window of opportunity for resilient development exists, but it is very short-lived. Fortunately, there are various solutions for global resilience development. These solutions involve integrating climate adaptation measures with greenhouse gas reduction actions. For instance, access to clean energy and technologies improves health, especially for women and children; low-carbon electrification, walking, cycling, and public transport enhance air quality. The health benefits alone from improved air quality could be roughly equal to or even greater than the costs of greenhouse gas reduction or avoidance.
- There are sufficient global financial resources for rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Increased funding for climate investments is crucial for achieving global climate objectives. Tested measures for substantial emissions reduction and climate resilience exist but need to be expanded and widely implemented. Political commitments, international cooperation, ecosystem management, and inclusive governance are all important for effective and equitable climate action. Urban areas also present a global-scale opportunity for ambitious climate actions that contribute to sustainable development.
- Changes in the food sector, electricity production, transportation, industry, infrastructure, and land use can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, a better understanding of the consequences of excessive consumption can help individuals make better-informed choices.
A race against time and a final call to meet the 1.5°C threshold
The choices we will make and the actions we will implement in this decade will have an impact in the near future, as well as for the next millennium. This synthesis points out that we are approaching “irreversible” levels of global warming with catastrophic consequences, and that “now or never” is the moment to take drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avert a potential disaster.
The next IPCC report is expected in 2030, which means that the IPCC AR6 report is the last to be published at a time when it is still possible to keep the global average temperature increase below 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. The physical basis of climate change is well understood, and the effects of climate change are highly visible, which implies that we might have IPCC reports appearing earlier than 2030, serving as a scientific basis for decision-makers in the upcoming critical period.
He is a physicist specialized in atmospheric physics, with an interest in history, climatology, physical processes, and the impact of extreme weather phenomena. Currently, he leads the project “Extreme weather events in the future climate of Romania (ClimExRo),” which aims, among other things, to bridge the gap between academic research and the general public. More details about this project can be found on the project’s webpage.
Article first published on InfoClima