The IPCC’s new report – explained

Leaders have called on businesses to back a low-carbon future after new climate report makes for grim reading

August 20, 2021

Human activity is “unequivocally” the driving force behind climate change, a newly published report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in a grim new report published last week. 

The body’s Sixth Assessment Report, ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis‘, describes how the planet is already living with the consequences of climate change and calls for more to be done to avert a potential climate catastrophe. 

Current efforts to curtail global warming are proving unsuccessful. A global temperature increase of 1.5°C, originally anticipated to occur by 2040, is now estimated to happen by 2030. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the report must be seen as the “death knell for coal and fossil fuels” in a plea to governments and investors to back a low-carbon future and to end new fossil fuel exploration projects.  

COP26 president and UK member of parliament Alok Sharma called on businesses to act on supporting the 1.5°C goal, adding that society must “follow the science” and take action to end carbon-intensive practices such as coal power. 

The report also noted how extreme droughts, heatwaves and flooding are set to become increasingly more likely with every region of the globe affected. 

“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming,” said IPCC Working Group I co-chair Panmao Zhai. 

But while the headlines of the past week have made for sombre reading, there are positive takeaways from the report. The authors said that it was not too late to stem the damaging consequences of global warming, but decisive action must be taken now. 

“Stabilising the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” said Zhai. 

Two further reports are to be published by the IPCC in 2022, from two other working groups within the organisation. Working Group II will “assess the impacts of climate change, from a worldwide to a regional view of ecosystems and biodiversity, and review the implications for humans and their diverse societies, cultures and settlements”, the IPCC said.

This report will also consider how the natural world and human societies can adapt to climate change, including areas of vulnerability and limitations.

Working Group III will “assess progress in limiting emissions, and the range of available mitigation options in energy and urban systems”, the IPCC said. It will also assess sectors such as agriculture, forestry, real estate, transport, and other industries. “The report will also assess the connection between short to medium-term actions and long-term emission pathways that limit global warming,” the organisation stated.

Last Updated: 20 August 2021