The Working Group II contribution for the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report has just been published. It’s dire, very very dire.
The quick summary is this – we are well and truly fucked.
You can find all the details here. (Be aware that the full report runs to over 3675 pages and is 280 MB in size).
There is also an associated press release that has been published – see here.
We now face unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades. There will be severe impacts, and some of these will be irreversible.
Many now face increased heatwaves, droughts, and floods. These are already exceeding the tolerance levels of both plants and animals. That is driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These weather extremes are not isolated, they are happening simultaneously. Managing this will become very challenging.
Literally millions of humans will face both food and water insecurity. This will be specifically true for Africa, Asia, and also Central, and South America.
“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”
It is not a lost cause … yet
Accelerated action is required …
“Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change and provide life-critical services such as food and clean water”, said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Hans-Otto Pörtner. “By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30 to 50 per cent of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store carbon, and we can accelerate progress towards sustainable development, but adequate finance and political support are essential.”
There is no debate about any of this, we must act now …
“The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner.
What is in the report?
The best way to rapidly get your head into it is to digest the 35 page Summary for Policymakers (SPM). It comes in 4 parts labelled A, B, C and D.
I’ll give you a quick overview of each, but will drill into B in a bit more detail.
SPM.A is an Introduction.
A key clause here is this – “the interdependence of climate, ecosystems and biodiversity, and human societies“. In other words, our understanding needs to be integrated and joined up, hence this is what the report strives to do.
We need transformation and not small tweaks. Our energy systems, urban and rural infrastructure, industry, and society, need to transition.
Business as usual is not an option.
SPM.B Covers Observed and projected Impacts and Risks
I’ve cherry-picked some of the key observations here in a bit more detail. Note that they qualify their statements with a confidence level in brackets.
SPM.B.1 Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability. Some development and adaptation efforts have reduced vulnerability. Across sectors and regions the most vulnerable people and systems are observed to be disproportionately affected. The rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt. (high confidence)
This breaks down into seven subsections. I’m skipping those because it is too much detail for this posting to cover.
Next comes B.2.
SPM.B.2 Vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions (very high confidence), driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalization, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance31 (high confidence). Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change (high confidence). A high proportion of species is vulnerable to climate change (high confidence). Human and ecosystem vulnerability are interdependent (high confidence). Current unsustainable development patterns are increasing exposure of ecosystems and people to climate hazards (high confidence)
That breaks down into 5 parts. Once again, to keep this posting readable, I’ll skip that.
Then we have B.3
SPM.B.3 Global warming, reaching 1.5°C in the near-term, would cause unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans (very high confidence). The level of risk will depend on concurrent near-term trends in vulnerability, exposure, level of socioeconomic development and adaptation (high confidence). Near-term actions that limit global warming to close to 1.5°C would substantially reduce projected losses and damages related to climate change in human systems and ecosystems, compared to higher warming levels, but cannot eliminate them all (very high confidence)
That has 2 subsections with more details.
On to B.4
SPM.B.4 Beyond 2040 and depending on the level of global warming, climate change will lead to numerous risks to natural and human systems (high confidence). For 127 identified key risks, assessed mid- and long- term impacts are up to multiple times higher than currently observed (high confidence). The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming (very high confidence)
And finally, B5
SPM.B.5 Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage. Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions. Some responses to climate change result in new impacts and risks. (high confidence)
Section SPM.C coves Current and future Adaption – basically, what can we actually do?
Finally, SPM.D covers the potential development of Climate Resilience.
I’ve skipped over the last two and focused mainly on B. That describes what is happening. That is also what needs to be understood, not by you and me, but by policymakers, those that make decisions.
Right now our minds are focused elsewhere.
Climate change is the greatest threat our species will ever face, yet we permit ourselves to be distracted and fail again and again to focus on what we need to do to avert disaster.
One last Thought
With a nod to Kipling … If you can remain calm while the entire community of climate subject matter experts are running around screaming in panic, then there is clearly something going on that you have completely failed to understand.