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Trianon Scientific Communication

  • Writer's pictureDr Audrey-Flore Ngomsik

IPCC climate change report of 8500 pages in 3 min

IPCC climate change report summary of 8500 pages in 3 min


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On Monday, the 20th of March 2023, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published their 6th report on global warming in Interlaken, Switzerland.

To be precise, they published the so-called Synthesis Report of the sixth assessment period.[REF01]

This is a summary of more than 8500 pages.


IPCC climate change report
IPCC Synthesis report

The IPCC consists of three Work Groups and in this Synthesis Report the findings of Work Groups I - III are summarised and spliced together.

The Synthesis Report will be taken as the basis for discussion at the next UN Climate Summit, called COP28, which is set to take place in Dubai in November 2023.[REF03]


Who is IPCC?


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed by both the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in 1988.[REF02]

Its purpose is to assess the development of climate change and its understanding as well as to provide strategies against global warming.

It consists primarily of volunteers from all walks of the scientific community (biologists, meteorologists, physicists, economists, social scientists etc.) accordingly organised into various working groups.




Group of scientists
Group of scientists


What do they do and what do they not do?

The scientist volunteers gather, assess, and summarise the available scientific information regarding climate change.

This information is then distilled into extensive and lengthy reports which are generally only read by experts interested in particular points.

Much shorter and much more readable versions of these reports are also prepared, they are called 'Summaries for Policymakers (SPMs)' and these are (or should be!) read and understood by everyone.

This document is signed by 195 countries, so the wording has been carefully scrutinised!

The IPCC does not conduct its own research, it is a meta-research organisation.

As said above, this report is the report of Work Group II.


There are three Work Groups.

  • WG I deals with the fundamental, physical understanding of climate change.

  • WG II assesses the impacts of and the adaptions and vulnerabilities to climate change, and

  • WG III suggests and evaluates ways and measures of mitigating climate change and its effects.

The report of Work Group I was published in August last year and the report of Work Group II was expected in August this year but came early.

So what does the report say?


Reports
Reports

Human activities principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming, with global surface temperature reaching 1.1°C.

That we knew...

This warming has and will continue to heart people non evenly on the planet.


Vulnerable communities contributed the least to current climate change are disproportionately affected.

That we knew too.


Most observed adaptation responses are fragmented, incremental, sector-specific and unequally distributed across regions...

So, our efforts are too little, not up to the task, and we work in silos.


(...) it is likely that global warming will exceed 1.5°C... and make it harder to limit warming below 2°C...

This is the key finding.

Green House Gas emissions are still increasing, which makes the climate clock tick faster.



Hourglass
Countdown

Continued greenhouse gas emissions will lead to increasing global warming...(...) Every increment of global warming will intensify multiple and concurrent hazards.

In order to reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C (over the levels of 1850) before 2030, we must reduce GHG emissions.

We have a limited amount of GHGs we can still emit before those GHGs WILL result in an average temperature of more than 1.5 °C higher than in 1850.


Why the limit of 1.5 °C?


Because a higher increase will result in irreversible changes to the natural resources we all depend on.

This limited amount of GHGs is called the Carbon Budget.

And it tells us where we could go. As it tell us what we need to do to reduce global warming to 1.5°C.

It is estimated at 500 billion tons.


This is to say that if we emit another 500 bn tons of CO2 we have a 50% chance of meeting the 1.5 °C limit. Emitting just 400 bn tons will give us a higher chance, 67%, and emitting just 300 bn tons will increase this chance to 87%.

Staying within a 1.5°C carbon budget
Staying within a 1.5°C carbon budget

We have a rapidly narrowing or closing window of opportunity to act.

As said above, GHG emissions are still increasing. That means, in order to 'stay within the budget' we will need to reduce our annual output even more in the coming six and a half years.


The good news is that it is doable.


Climate policies are working

... policies have enhanced energy efficiency, reduced rates of deforestation and accelerated technology deployment... Multiple lines of evidence suggest that mitigation policies have led to several Gt CO2-eq/year avoided emissions.

solar panels
solar panels

We have at our disposal climate change solutions which are available, cheaper and well-liked.


Several mitigation options, notably solar energy, wind energy, electrification of urban systems, urban green infrastructure, energy efficiency, demand-side management, improved forest-and crop/grassland management, and reduces food waste and loss, are technically viable, are becoming increasingly effective and are generally supported by the public.

As said above, GHG emissions are still increasing. That means, in order to 'stay within the budget' we will need to reduce our annual output even more in the coming six and a half years.


Future IPCC reports


This reports the sixth assessment period. An assessment period is usually around seven years.

That would mean the next IPCC reports will be due around 2030, the time at which we will have to have met the climate goals or face the consequences.


It might very well be the case that by then the focus of the next reports will be on emergency measures to mitigate the most drastic consequences, such as relocating populations from areas which have become uninhabitable due to intolerably high temperatures, severe droughts, and rampant diseases.


At present, no information regarding the seventh assessment period is available.

This will most likely be discussed at the upcoming COP28 in Dubai in November and December 2023.


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