I want to start with a quote, a critical one:
“The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal. Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”IPCC Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (SPM.D.5.3).
This quote is from the last page of the second part of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report (AR6), which came out on the 28th of February, at a very sad point in time for what is happening in Europe: an unjustified attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty from the Russian autocrat blinded by power & financed from fossil fuels.
Loss of lives caused by war. Loss of lives caused by climate change. The same root: our dependence on fossil fuels.
The third part of the report came out on the 4th of April. And the main message? We must act now with immediate and deep emissions reductions, or we will face the worst impacts of climate change.
It might be confusing with all these reports so let’s take a step back and answer the question: What is the IPCC sixth assessment report?
What is the IPCC sixth assessment report?
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is the most authoritative international body on climate science. It publishes its Assessment Reports (AR) every five to eight years (the previous AR in 2014). During the cycle, scientists assess thousands of scientific papers to provide a comprehensive summary & report on the latest science of climate change.
The IPCC is currently in its Sixth Assessment cycle, producing the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).
Three different working groups write the assessment reports (so we have three documents), focusing on specific aspects of climate change. These three reports (in addition to other “Special Reports” written in the cycle) are summarized in the Synthesis Report.
The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) explained.
Working group I. Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis (released in August 2021).
The report explains the science behind climate change and the progress in understanding how the climate system works. It includes global and regional projections for future warming. It also tells us how the climate system is changing in response to human activities and the associated impacts (e.g., extreme weather events). You can find some of the most important facts in the Climate Facts section.
Working group II. Climate Change2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (released in February 2022).
This report assessed the damages climate change is already causing (to our well-being and our planet), what we can expect in the future, and what options we have to adapt to these changes. It also describes options to create a “climate resilient development*.”
*A climate resilient development is the process of implementing greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation measures to support sustainable development.
Working group III. Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change (released in April 2022).
Essentially it says that the time to take action is now if we want to keep the temperature within the Paris Agreement limits and avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The report tells us what we can do to limit and prevent human-caused GHG emissions. One of the most important messages is that we have many options available -right now! in every sector to halve GHG emissions by 2030.
Synthesis Report (September 2022 – scheduled) will summarize the findings of the three working groups and the other reports published during the current assessment cycle. This report will be crucial in the lead-up to the next conference of the parties CoP27 in Egypt scheduled in November 2022, where the parties are requested to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022 (as per Article 29 of the Glasgow Climate Pact).
Why the IPCC reports are important
The short versions of the reports, called Summaries for Policymakers (SPMs), are approved by the IPCC member governments. Approval means that the report has been subject to line-by-line discussion and agreement among the participating IPCC member countries and the scientists responsible for drafting the report. And this was the reason for the delayed press conference before the release of the third report.
The Synthesis Reports are adopted by the IPCC member governments, meaning that there is a section-by-section discussion among participating governments and the authors to agree on the document.
The most important messages from scientists
Scientists tell us that human activities such as burning fossil fuels, land use, land-use change, our lifestyles, and our consumption are causing significant changes to our climate system (producing GHG emissions that are warming our planet).
They also tell us that we will not stay under the 1.5C limit (compared to pre-industrial levels) of the Paris Agreement if we don’t act urgently. We need to start reducing our GHG emissions right now and halve them by 2030.
We are already experiencing the devastating effects of climate change (floods, heatwaves, droughts, fires, etc.), and it will get worse if we don’t act. We also need to invest in adaptation measures to protect communities, especially the most vulnerable (within and among countries), with losses and damages already happening.
It is crucial to evaluate climate action in the context of sustainable development because climate change actions can result in some trade-offs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be used as framework to identify equitable climate actions.
Scientists’ message is clear: we need climate action now to secure a sustainable future for all.
What can we do?
I live in Sydney, Australia, and a federal election is coming. Keep in mind what future you want to create when you are called to choose our leaders because our planet depends on it. Our future depends on it. The future of our kids depends on it.
And we can do something about it.