The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has emphasised the urgent need for immediate and significant action to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts. The report highlights that human activities are causing global warming, as evidenced by the fact that global surface temperatures have increased by 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels (i.e., the average temperature from 1850-1900) in the period from 2011 to 2020. The report warns that global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase. This is due to unsustainable energy use, land use and land-use change, as well as lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production. These issues exist across regions, between and within countries, and among individuals.
The report also notes that many climate-related risks are higher than previously assessed in the 2014 IPCC report, and projected long-term impacts are up to multiple times higher than currently observed. Risks and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages from climate change escalate with every increment of global warming, creating compound and cascading risks that are more complex and difficult to manage.
The report highlights that every increment of global warming will intensify multiple hazards, and some future changes are unavoidable and/or irreversible but can be limited by deep, rapid, and sustained global greenhouse gas emissions reduction. However, the likelihood of abrupt and/or irreversible changes increases with higher global warming levels.
As global warming increases, adaptation options that are feasible and effective today will become constrained and less effective. With increasing global warming, losses and damages will increase, and additional human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits. The report warns that maladaptation can be avoided by flexible, multi-sectoral, inclusive, long-term planning, and implementation of adaptation actions, with co-benefits to many sectors and systems.
The report calls for net zero CO2 emissions to limit human-caused global warming, with cumulative carbon emissions until the time of reaching net-zero CO2 emissions and the level of greenhouse gas emission reductions this decade largely determining whether warming can be limited to 1.5°C or 2°C.
All global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C (>67%), involve rapid, deep, and, in most cases, immediate greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors this decade. Global net zero CO2 emissions can be reached for these pathway categories in the early 2050s and around the early 2070s, respectively.
The report underscores the urgent need for immediate action to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts. Without significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and effective adaptation measures, the risks and impacts of climate change will continue to grow, threatening human and natural systems around the world.
In conclusion, the IPCC report serves as a stark reminder that the climate crisis remains one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Rapid and ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as enhanced adaptation measures are needed to protect vulnerable communities and ecosystems. Immediate and sustained action is needed to address this crisis and it is up to everyone to act in their own lives and advocate for meaningful change at all levels of society.