Every handful of years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases a new report outlining the state of our world. It looks at air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and overall climate change and global warming. It uses this report to make recommendations to policymakers that’ll help us slow and eventually reverse global warming and climate change.
In 2023, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report hit the press release cycle and outlined all the good and bad happening with the environment since the last report. So, what did the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report say? Continue reading for a full analysis of the report.
What Does the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report Say?
The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) outlined many topics dealing with climate change and global warming and how these can impact our world and the species occupying it. It covered a range of topics, but some key takeaways are as follows.
Substantial and Increasingly Irreversible Damage
The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report recognizes that damage from climate change is not something that may happen in the future. It’s happening now. The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report states with high confidence that climate change and global warming have already led to “substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems.”
Mass Extinctions Are Likely
The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report also touched on how climate change and global warming can impact biodiversity — the number of different species living on our planet. According to the report, it’s likely that the percentage of species — terrestrial and freshwater — at a very high risk of extinction will grow as global temperatures rise. Terrestrial species could experience 3% to 14% extinction if global temperatures increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius. At 4 degrees Celsius, we could lose approximately 50% of all tropical marine species to extinction.
Humans Are at Risk too
According to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, humans are also at risk from global warming and climate change. The report states that 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people live in areas that it considers “highly vulnerable” to climate change. This can include places like low-lying coastlines subject to flooding due to rising sea levels or areas prone to extreme weather enhanced by climate change.
This is creating a humanitarian crisis that’s driving displacement, particularly in small island states.
Increased Food and Water Insecurities
The extreme weather and climate events climate change is fueling have exposed millions to acute food and water insecurities. This is most obvious in sections of Africa, Asia, Central and South America, small islands, and the Arctic. It has also most heavily impacted low-income households and indigenous people worldwide.
Further compounding this issue, the report states climate change will put increasing pressure on food production and access in vulnerable areas.
Overall Health and Wellness to Decline
Finally, the report states that climate change and extreme weather events will increase poor health and premature deaths in the near and long term.
When was the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report Released?
The AR6 report came in stages from three Working Groups — individuals within IPCC working on specific solutions:
Working Group I (WGI) contributed the Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis report to the AR6 and released it on August 9, 2021.
Working Group II (WGII) developed the Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report, which it released on February 28, 2022.
Working Group III (WGIII) released the Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change report on April 4, 2022.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a United Nations (UN) body responsible for assessing the science related to climate change — is responsible for releasing the IPCC Assessment Reports, which is a longer report that combines the three IPCC Working Group contributions, every six or seven years. The IPCC released the synthesis report for the sixth time on March 20, 2023, in Interlaken, Switzerland.
What Is the Key Message from the Sixth Assessment of the IPCC Report to Keep to the Paris Agreement Goal?
The AR6 synthesis report focuses on a major issue with keeping to the Paris Agreement goals: adaptation. The Paris Agreement includes a global goal of adaptation. While adaptation is critical, the goal outlined in the Paris Agreement is vague.
The IPCC’s special report states that a key issue is that specifying adaptation goals is harder than climate change mitigation. It mentions that adaptation can cover a wide range of activities, and the success of adaptation depends strongly on the context. So, the report identifies three metrics by which to assess adaptation: effectiveness, feasibility, and justice.
Let’s review how the IPCC identifies these metrics:
Effectiveness: This is the extent to which a climate action reduces climate risk but may also include economic benefits and wider social well-being.
Feasibility: This measures how possible and desirable an adaptation is and accounts for barriers, enablers, synergies, and trade-offs.
Justice: This, according to the IPCC, can break down into three different types of climate justice, including distributive justice, procedural justice, and recognition.
What Is the Difference Between IPCC AR5 and AR6?
The main difference between the Fifth Assessment Report and the Sixth Assessment Report is the addition of a new lower scenario that shows the impacts of strong climate and air pollution mitigation. Dubbed SSP1-1.9, this scenario considers the impacts of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions in the 2050s, which is one major action required in the Paris Agreement. In this new scenario, the IPCC finds the ocean temperatures would rise by only 0.25 degrees Celsius and the atmosphere by 1 degree Celsius.
What Is the Climate Change Projection for 2023?
The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report projects the annual mean global near-surface temperature will range from 1.1 to 1.8 degrees Celsius higher than the 1850 to 1900 average. However, it notes only a 32% chance this exceeds the 1.5 degrees C threshold set by the Paris Agreement. While that may seem like a relatively low percentage, keep in mind that this is up from just a 10% chance predicted between 2017 and 2021.
How Long Until Climate Change Is Irreversible?
In its summary for policymakers, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report clearly lays out that some climate change may be long-lasting or even irreversible. However, not all of the impacts are irreversible — yet.
Can Global Warming Be Reversed?
Many experts believe we can reverse global warming. According to experts, if we can get to a point where greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are in decline, which is called drawdown, we can reverse global warming before 2050. However, achieving this will require aggressive, absolute adoption of climate actions, and numerous human activities focused on helping the environment.
What Are 3 Major Conclusions of the IPCC?
The IPCC reached many conclusions in the Sixth Assessment Report, but some stood out more than others. Let’s review the three major conclusions from the sixth assessment cycle.
We Need to Shift Away From Fossil Fuels
We’ve known for some time that we must move away from fossil fuels. From coal-fired power plants to internal-combustion engines, we need to wean ourselves off these because they are the number-one cause of the climate crisis.
To limit global warming below the 1.5 degrees Celsius agreed upon in the Paris Agreement, we must limit our emissions to just 510 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) by the 2050s. However, the predicted CO2 emissions from existing and planned fossil-fuel infrastructures already exceed that by 340 GtCO2.
To reach this, we must work on retiring fossil fuel infrastructures, canceling or modifying planned fossil fuel infrastructures, and fitting fossil-fuel power plants with carbon capture and storage systems.
Adaptation Requires More Funding
It’s no mystery that combating climate change requires funding, particularly adaptation. According to the IPCC, developing countries require $127 billion annually by 2030 and $295 billion annually by 2050 to adapt to climate change. However, the funds for adaptation reached only $23 billion to $46 billion from 2017 to 2018. This pace is simply too slow, and requires more attention to meet the adaptation goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.
Impacts of Climate Change on People and Ecosystems Is Worse Than Expected
The final key finding in the AR6 is that climate impacts are already more far-reaching and extreme than anticipated. Roughly 50% of the world’s population suffers severe water insecurity for at least a month per year, and rising temperatures are aiding the spread of vector-borne diseases — those spread between animals by blood-feeding arthropods, such as malaria.
Climate change has also slowed agriculture in middle and low latitudes, including shrinking African crop growth by a third since 1961.
Also, the report found that even limiting global warming to just 1.5 degrees C is not safe for everyone. At this temperature increase, 950 million occupants in the world’s drylands will experience water stress, heat stress, and desertification. Also, this temperature increase would expose 24% more of the global population to flooding.
The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report Uncovered Many Issues, But There’s Still Hope
Fighting global warming and a changing climate is a struggle, as climate scientists and proponents of reducing GHG emissions work hard to get global adoption of climate actions. And the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report shows just how those struggles have kept us from reaching the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. Fortunately, as experts have laid out, there’s still time to reduce our emissions and reverse climate change before we do serious irreversible damage.
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