by Faye Murphy
On the 27th of February, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was published. The publication was the second volume of the sixth assessment report from the IPCC, which analyses 34,000 studies, including 270 authors from 67 countries. It provides one of the most comprehensive examinations of the escalating impacts of climate change and future risks, particularly for marginalised communities and countries with poor resources and facilities. The 2022 IPCC report also describes which climate adaptation approaches are most effective and feasible. The findings further proved what many of us already knew: the world is dying at an unbelievable pace. Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC, described the report as “a dire warning about the consequences of inaction”.
“the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk”
Previous IPCC reports suggested a link between human activity and climate change, but this volume concluded with “high confidence” that humans are the primary instigators in driving global warming and causing issues such as ice caps melting and heatwaves. The report states that “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in response to the report, echoed, “the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk”.
The recent edition of the IPCC report contained a chapter dedicated to short-lived climate forces such as aerosols, methane, and particulate matter. Previous editions had mentioned the importance of safe methane levels in the atmosphere, but none have had chapters dedicated to it, further highlighting the importance of methane levels. It is important to note that methane levels are currently at the highest levels in 800,000 years. The IPCC report 2022 highlighted two significant examples of what could happen if we continue at our current rate: Forests could start to die. As temperatures continue to rise, forests could begin to die off. Trees play a key role in absorbing CO2, so if deforestation occurs, this will mean forests stop growing and hence have disastrous consequences both globally and locally. The report’s second example was that sea levels would continue to rise. As global warming occurs, ice caps continue to melt at a rapid pace, meaning sea levels rise, and towns and cities around coastal areas are in danger of being engulfed by the ocean. Research published in Nature suggests that if nothing is done, sea levels could rise more than a metre by 2100 and 15 metres over the next 500 years.
“half the global population faces water insecurity at least one month per year”
The report discusses how urgent action is required to deal with increasing risks. The report outlines how weather extremes, such as droughts and floods, are causing mass mortality of biodiversity, which further causes food insecurity. The report mentions that half the global population faces water insecurity at least one month per year. In order for change, the report suggests “deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions”, as progress on this initiative is “uneven”, which increases gaps “among lower-income populations”. Lee emphasises “the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.”
The report also discusses how safeguarding and strengthening nature are vital to securing a liveable future for all. The report mentions that climate change interacts with global trends such as unsustainable use of natural resources, growing urbanisation, social inequalities, potential pandemics and hence decline in development. Co-chair Hans-Otto Porter believes that “By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30 to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store carbon”. Porter believes this would allow us to “accelerate [the] progress towards sustainable development”, despite this “adequate finance and political support are essential” for progress to occur.
The IPCC report discusses the importance of urban areas in the solution to climate change. Over 50% of the human population lives in urban areas and endures different consequences and effects of climate change. Poorly planned cities in response to unthinkable levels of population growth, increasing unemployment and poverty due to growing urbanisation. Increasing land usage, industrialisation of green areas and urbanisation into agricultural land are causing increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions within cities and therefore have confounding effects leading to future livelihood insecurity.
The report emphasised how the window for action and opportunity is closing more rapidly than expected. The findings showed that 2 degrees of global warming in some regions would prevent climate resilience development. This is clearly a threat to human life and wellbeing. According to the IPCC Report Press Release, “this key finding underlines the urgency for climate action, focusing on equity and justice”, but “adequate funding, technology transfer, political commitment and partnership” is needed for “more effective climate change adaptation and emissions reductions”. Time is running out; we must all unite to ensure a future for all.