Story at a glance
- The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its climate assessment report, and notes that the world is on the precipice of severe climate change.
- Sea levels rising is a paramount concern, largely driven by melting ice caps and a more intense water cycle.
- The Paris Agreement stipulates that the global temperature averages shouldn’t rise past 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal now harder to reach.
The United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth assessment report on the global climate state, showcasing a need for urgent action as many ecosystems are vulnerable to further “irreversible” damage with rising temperatures.
Among the “unprecedented” changes documented in the report are rising sea levels, more intense and frequent droughts, melting ice sheets and glaciers, and warmer ocean temperatures — all of which researchers link to human-caused climate change, mainly through greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists warn that these scenarios, especially rising sea levels, are increasingly likely to occur unless the world works to undergo “rapid and deep reductions of CO2 [carbon dioxide] and other greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades.”
Should the countries on Earth contributing the most emissions fail to reduce the volumes emitted, achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, including maintaining the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold, “will be beyond reach.”
“It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” said IPCC Working Group I co-Chairwoman Valérie Masson-Delmotte. “Yet the new report also reflects major advances in the science of attribution – understanding the role of climate change in intensifying specific weather and climate events.”
Along with rising sea levels, which stand to displace vulnerable communities ranging from Kiribati Island in the Pacific to Miami, other natural phenomena that stand to increase from warmer global temperatures include heavy rainfall and tropical cyclones.
In addition to threatening human life, these heightened natural disasters stand to disrupt natural agricultural patterns and the global food supply chain.
City inhabitants are going to feel the heat as well, the report stated, with warmer temperatures trapped within tall buildings and asphalt. It also said more flooding is likely as well.
The report authors note that the only path to halting damaging climate change is through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to limiting emissions, the report recommends that the deliberate removal of carbon from the atmosphere could compensate for its initial emission. Carbon removal projects, including reforestation, direct air capture and storage, and soil management stand to help countries reach a new zero emissions level, or possibly become carbon negative.
Either way, human action is required to solve anthropomorphic climate change before the world reaches a 2 degree Celsius temperature change, the point where scientists expect climatic changes to be notably severe, the report says.
“Stabilizing 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 IPCC Working Group I co-Chairman Panmao Zhai.