A stark UN report says major climate changes are now inevitable and irreversible

The Earth’s climate system is changing across the planet, and its “widespread, rapid and intense” effects are exacerbated by human activities, according to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report by eminent climate scientists, published Monday, provides evidence that “unless there are immediate, rapid and widespread reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting the rise in temperature to approximately 1.5 degrees or even two degrees will be out of reach.”

The report’s authors warned that such a scenario would bring inevitable catastrophic effects over the coming decades for humans, particularly in the form of extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

Many of the changes observed are “unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some changes that have already begun – such as continued sea-level rise – are irreversible” in a future time frame of hundreds to thousands of years.

On a positive note, the scientists emphasized that strong and sustained cuts immediately followed in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – particularly methane – will curb climate change. The report shows that human actions still have the power to determine the future course of Earth’s climate.

While the benefits from air quality will materialize quickly, it could take 20 to 30 years for global temperatures to stabilize, according to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group 1 (WG1).

Drawing on more than 14,000 scientific papers, the review provides the latest knowledge about past and possible future warming; How humans alter climate and how it increases extreme weather events and leads to sea level rise.

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A Ford Bronco rests in floodwaters in February 2017, in the Rock Springs area of ​​San Jose, California. The IPCC report says climate change is leading to heavy rainfall and associated flooding. Photo: Getty Images

It was approved by the 195 member governments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – signatories to the Paris Agreement – through a virtual approval session held over the past two weeks. Its findings provide a stark backdrop for the upcoming United Nations climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow next November.

However, the report decisively concludes that halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 is the right path for countries to enable collective containment of temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels – a key Paris goal.

The WG1 report is the first batch of the Sixth Global Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR6), which will be completed in 2022.

“This report reflects extraordinary efforts under exceptional circumstances,” said Hosung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “The innovations presented in this report, and the advances in climate science they reflect, provide invaluable input into climate negotiations and decision-making.”

Professor Peter Thorne of the University of Maynooth was lead author of a group of 230 climate specialists who prepared the report. After it was agreed late last week, he tweeted: “THIS IS NOT AN EXERCISE: We have an IPCC WGI Certified! Great. Words are lost now.”

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