IPCC Publish Sixth Major Climate Change Assessment

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today published the first instalment of its sixth assessment report, warning “widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere” are already being felt across the globe.

On the release of the report, the IPCC stated that:

Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.

The authors warn that unless there are immediate and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions temperature rises will exceed 2 degrees Celsius this century under all scenarios, reaching a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise by 2040 without major reductions.

The report links climate changes to the increasing heatwaves and widespread wildfires since the 1950s, and highlights that the recent rate of sea level rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971. It has also been confirmed that it is “very likely” the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea-ice is human influence.

Additionally, past emissions have also committed the marine environment to future warming of 2-4 times the 1971-2018 change under the lowest emission scenario.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said:

It is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet. We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline. I hope today’s IPCC report will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now…

The report does offer hope in advance of the upcoming climate conference, COP26, as it finds if net zero carbon dioxide can be reached quickly, temperature rises can be stabilised.

For the first time, the Sixth Assessment Report provides a more detailed regional assessment of climate change, including a focus on useful information that can inform risk assessment, adaptation, and other decision-making.

This report is the first instalment of the Sixth Assessment Report that will be completed in 2022.