IPCC 6th Report : the next seven years are critical. The rate at which the climate is changing means that every company needs to take action.
Yesterday’s Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report from IPCC made a final and urgent call for climateaction, before the window to avoid more catastrophic impacts is shut for good.If this is to be achieved, we need immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors.
RELEVANT SUSTAINABLE GOALS
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 6th Report
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released their Sixth Assessment Report, the final installment of an eight-year project involving the world’s leading scientific minds on climate change. With input from 234 scientists on physical science, 270 scientists on impacts and vulnerability, and 278 scientists on mitigation, this IPCC synthesis report is the most extensive, best available scientific evaluation of climate change.
As expected, the AR6 paints a bleak picture, outlining the dire consequences of escalating greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, such as destroyed homes, lost livelihoods, and broken communities. However, the report also presents a way forward, highlighting practical solutions to mitigate the risks. It identifies measures that can be taken now to reduce GHG emissions, enhance carbon removal, and improve resilience – some of which are cost-effective. Despite the rapidly-closing window to address the climate crisis, the IPCC affirms that we can still achieve a safe and livable future. To get you up to speed, here are ten key findings from the report.
1. Human-induced global warming ofd 1.1. degrees C
It’s official: human activity has caused the Earth’s climate to change in unprecedented ways. With a global temperature increase of just 1.1 degrees C (2 degrees F), we’re already experiencing climate changes that are unparalleled in recent history. Every region of the world is feeling the effects, from rising sea levels to extreme weather patterns to melting sea ice at an alarming rate. It’s a lot to take in, but it’s not all bad news. We have the power to turn things around and protect our planet for future generations.
The latest IPCC report makes it clear: rising global temperatures are causing unprecedented changes to our climate, and things will only get worse if we don’t take action. For every 0.5 degree C (0.9 degrees F) rise in temperature, we can expect more extreme heatwaves, heavier rainfall, and prolonged droughts. The numbers are alarming, but they also underscore the importance of swift and decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming.
The report also highlights the risks of reaching dangerous tipping points, where the climate system could trigger self-amplifying feedback loops that further increase warming. The consequences of such tipping points could be catastrophic, from permafrost thawing to massive forest dieback. But here’s the good news: we can still prevent these worst-case scenarios by taking bold steps to reduce emissions and invest in sustainable technologies.
2. The impacts of human-induced global warming have already exceeded our expectations, causing unprecedented changes in the Earth’s climate
Every increase of 0.5 degree C in global temperature will bring about noticeable increases in the frequency and severity of heat extremes, heavy rainfall events, and droughts. The number of heatwaves will also rise by several times with increasing temperature, with intensity escalating as well. These changes heighten the likelihood of reaching dangerous tipping points in the climate system that could trigger irreversible feedbacks and substantial changes in the climate system.
But it’s not all bad news. The report emphasizes that we can still take action to mitigate the risks and prevent further damage. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, scaling up carbon removal, and building resilience, we can create a safer, livable future. While the window of opportunity to address the climate crisis is rapidly closing, the report shows that there are readily available, and in some cases, highly cost-effective actions that we can undertake now.
The report underscores the need for immediate action to address the climate crisis, as every fraction of a degree of warming will intensify the threats to people and ecosystems. However, the report also offers hope that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C is still within reach, and with it, a more sustainable and equitable future. By working together and taking decisive action, we can make a positive impact and create a better world for ourselves and future generations.
To ensure a safe and livable future, it is critical to limit the magnitude and duration of overshooting 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F). Even temporary overshooting can lead to severe and oftentimes irreversible impacts, including local species extinctions, the complete drowning of salt marshes, and loss of human lives from increased heat stress. Holding warming to as close to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) or below as possible is essential.
It’s important to note that even if we exceed this temperature limit by the end of the century, we must rapidly curb GHG emissions to avoid higher levels of warming and the associated impacts.
3. Adapting to the impacts of climate change can help build resilience and protect communities, but the challenge is finding enough resources to make it happen
While more than 170 countries have policies in place to address climate adaptation, many still struggle to move beyond the planning stage. Unfortunately, limited financing remains a significant barrier. According to the IPCC, developing countries will need billions of dollars per year to adapt to climate change, but current funding falls far short. The good news is that the IPCC has identified many readily available and proven solutions that can help communities adapt to climate risks while also delivering broader sustainable development benefits. For example, ecosystem-based adaptation measures, such as protecting and restoring ecosystems, can not only help people adapt to the impacts of climate change, but can also improve health outcomes, food security, and carbon sequestration.
With meaningful collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and strategies designed to account for future impacts, we can build resilience and ensure a safer, more livable future for all.
4. Climate change impacts are already causing severe problems for vulnerable populations and ecosystems across the world
Some adaptation measures exist, but various economic, political, and social barriers hinder their implementation. In other regions, however, these impacts have reached “hard” limits, where no existing strategies can prevent losses and damages. These impacts are already widespread and severe, with many coastal communities experiencing the loss of entire coral reef systems and other low-lying areas forced to abandon their homes and cultural heritage due to rising sea levels. Nonetheless, with renewed efforts and support, we can still make significant progress in protecting vulnerable communities and ecosystems from the worst impacts of climate change.
Climate change is already causing severe impacts on vulnerable communities, and unfortunately, the situation will only worsen as the world continues to warm. Even if we limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), some regions will still experience devastating water shortages and crop failures. At higher temperatures, the risk of health hazards from extreme heat will increase.
The good news is that countries are taking action to address these losses and damages. At COP27, a dedicated fund for loss and damage was agreed upon, which is a significant step forward. However, the success of this initiative will depend on the details of the funding arrangements and the accessibility of financial resources to those most in need. With continued effort and cooperation, we can make a difference in minimizing and addressing the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities.
5. Global GHG emissions peak before 2025 in 1.5 degrees C-aligned pathways
According to the IPCC, we have a greater than 50% chance of reaching or exceeding the 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) global temperature rise threshold between 2021 and 2040. However, under a high-emissions pathway, we could hit this threshold even sooner, between 2018 and 2037. If this happens, global temperature rise could be between 3.3 degrees C to 5.7 degrees C (5.9 degrees F to 10.3 degrees F) by 2100. To avoid this, we need to take urgent action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) or less, with no or limited overshoot.
The good news is that we have pathways that can help us achieve this goal. In these scenarios, greenhouse gas emissions peak immediately and no later than 2025, dropping rapidly by 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035, compared to 2019 levels. This means that if we take the right steps now, we can successfully limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) and avoid the devastating impacts of higher temperatures. It won’t be easy, but it’s achievable if we act urgently and decisively.
6. The world must rapidly shift away from burning fossil fuels
To prevent the worst impacts of climate change, we need to transition away from fossil fuels, which are the primary cause of the problem. According to experts, if we want to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) with no or limited overshoot, we can only emit a net total of 510 GtCO2 before we reach net zero emissions in the early 2050s. However, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that could come from existing and planned fossil fuel infrastructure alone is projected to be 340 GtCO2 higher than that limit, reaching a staggering 850 GtCO2.
7. Urgent, systemwide transformations to secure a net-zero, climate-resilient future
To effectively address the climate crisis, it’s not just about reducing emissions from fossil fuels. We need significant, systemwide changes to create a net-zero, climate-resilient future. It’s important to focus on multiple sectors such as power generation, buildings, industry, and transportation, as they contribute to almost 80% of global emissions. Additionally, agriculture, forestry, and other land uses must also be considered as they make up the remaining emissions. Urgent and comprehensive transformations are necessary to achieve our goals.
Let’s take a look at the transport system as an example. In order to make significant reductions in emissions, we need to plan cities in a way that minimizes the need for travel and prioritize shared, public, and nonmotorized transportation like rapid transit and biking. We can also increase the availability of electric vehicles and install more rapid-charging infrastructure. This transformation will require investments in zero-carbon fuels for shipping and aviation as well.
To make these changes easier, policymakers can offer incentives for using zero-carbon technologies and impose taxes on high-emissions technologies like fossil-fueled cars. Additionally, infrastructure design, such as adding bike lanes or widening sidewalks, can encourage people to adopt low-emission lifestyles. It’s important to note that these changes come with many benefits, including reducing air pollution, traffic-related accidents, and fatalities.
8. Decarbonizing all sectors and building resilience to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C
The IPCC has found that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) will require the use of carbon removal techniques. Natural solutions like storing carbon in trees and soil, as well as emerging technologies that can extract carbon dioxide directly from the air, will be necessary in all pathways that limit warming to this goal.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) with no or limited overshoot, we’ll need to remove between 5 and 16 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year by mid-century, depending on the rate of emissions reductions.
There are different ways to remove carbon, including natural solutions like planting trees and improving soil quality, as well as emerging technologies that can directly capture carbon from the air. Each approach has its own benefits and drawbacks. For example, reforestation is a low-cost option that can also provide other benefits to local communities. However, it’s vulnerable to disturbances like wildfires. Meanwhile, technologies like bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) offer a more permanent solution but could also threaten food security by displacing croplands.
9. Climate finance, both for mitigation and adaptation, needs to be dramatically increased in the coming years
Despite a 60% increase in annual public and private climate finance, the funding for fossil fuels still outweighs the money directed towards addressing climate change. To achieve global climate goals, climate finance needs to increase by three to six times by 2030. This gap is particularly wide in developing countries, which are already burdened with debt, poor credit ratings, and economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent investments in mitigation, for example, need to increase sixfold in Southeast Asia, fivefold in Africa, and fourteenfold in the Middle East by 2030 to limit global warming to below 2 degrees C. The shortfall is most significant in agriculture, forestry, and other land use sectors, where current financial flows are 10 to 31 times below what is needed to achieve the Paris Agreement’s objectives.
Finance for adaptation and loss and damage will also need to rise dramatically. Developing countries will require $127 billion per year by 2030 and $295 billion per year by 2050 to adapt to climate change. Although the IPCC report does not evaluate the financial needs to avert, minimize, and address losses and damages, recent estimates suggest that they will be substantial in the coming decades. However, current funds for both adaptation and loss and damage fall well below the estimated requirements, with the highest estimates of adaptation finance totaling under $50 billion per year.”
10. Ensuring a just transition is critical in mitigating and adapting to climate change, as failure to do so will exacerbate existing inequities
Despite households in the top 10% income bracket emitting over 45% of global greenhouse gases, those in the bottom 50% account for no more than 15%. However, the impacts of climate change will disproportionately affect historically marginalized communities, particularly those in developing countries. Currently, between 3.3 billion and 3.6 billion people live in countries highly vulnerable to climate impacts, concentrated in hotspots across the Arctic, Central and South America, Small Island Developing States, South Asia, and much of sub-Saharan Africa. These regions face existing inequalities, development challenges, and conflicts, which increase sensitivity to climate hazards and limit capacity to adapt, including limited access to basic services like clean water. In the past decade, mortality from climate-related disasters was 15 times higher in countries with high vulnerability than those with low vulnerability.