Climate change: a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Acting now can secure our future.
Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruptions to nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce risk. The people and ecosystems least able to cope are the hardest hit, scientists said in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released today.
“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “This shows that climate change is a serious and growing threat to our well-being and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to growing climate risks. »
The world faces multiple unavoidable climate risks over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F). Even temporarily exceeding this level of warming will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Risks to society will increase, including to low-lying coastal infrastructure and settlements.
Urgent action needed to address growing risks
Increasing heat waves, droughts and floods are already exceeding the tolerance thresholds of plants and animals, leading to mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These extreme weather events occur simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, particularly in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, small islands and the Arctic.
To avoid growing losses of human life, biodiversity and infrastructure, ambitious and accelerated action is needed to adapt to climate change, while rapidly and deeply reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So far, progress on adaptation has been uneven and there are growing gaps between what is being done and what is needed to address growing risks, according to the new report. These gaps are largest among low-income populations.
The Working Group II report is the second installment of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed this year.
“This report recognizes the interdependence of climate, biodiversity and people and integrates natural, social and economic sciences more strongly than previous IPCC assessments,” said Hoesung Lee. “It underlines the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option. »
Saving and enhancing nature is key to ensuring a livable future
There are options for adapting to climate change. This report provides new insights into nature's potential not only to reduce climate risks, but also to improve people's lives.
“Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change and provide life-sustaining services such as food and drinking water,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II. "By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30-50% of Earth's terrestrial, freshwater and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature's ability to absorb and store carbon, and we can accelerate progress towards sustainable development, but adequate funding and political support are essential. »
Scientists point out that climate change interacts with global trends such as unsustainable use of natural resources, increasing urbanization, social inequalities, loss and damage caused by extreme events and pandemic, jeopardizing future development.
“Our assessment clearly shows that to address all of these different challenges, everyone – governments, the private sector, civil society – is working together to prioritize risk reduction, as well as equity and justice, in decision-making and investment,” said Debra Roberts, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II.
In this way, different interests, values and worldviews can be reconciled. By bringing together scientific and technological know-how as well as indigenous and local knowledge, solutions will be more effective. Failure to achieve climate resilient and sustainable development will result in a sub-optimal future for people and nature. »
Cities: hotspots of impacts and risks, but also a crucial part of the solution
This report provides a detailed assessment of climate change impacts, risks and adaptation in cities, where more than half of the world's population lives. The health, lives and livelihoods of the population, as well as essential assets and infrastructure, including energy and transport systems, are increasingly affected by the risks associated with heat waves, storms, droughts and floods, and slow changes, including sea level rise.
“Together, increasing urbanization and climate change create complex risks, especially for cities that are already experiencing poorly planned urban growth, high levels of poverty and unemployment, and a lack of basic services,” said said Debra Roberts.
“But cities also offer opportunities for climate action – green buildings, a reliable supply of clean water and renewable energy, and sustainable transport systems that connect urban and rural areas can all lead to a more inclusive society. and fairer. »
There is growing evidence of adaptation that has had unintended consequences, such as destroying nature, putting people's lives at risk, or increasing greenhouse gas emissions. This can be avoided by involving everyone in planning, paying attention to equity and justice, and leveraging indigenous and local knowledge.
A shrinking window for action
Climate change is a global challenge that requires local solutions and that is why Working Group II's contribution to the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) provides detailed regional information to enable climate-resilient development.
The report makes it clear that climate-resilient development is already difficult at current levels of warming. It will become more limited if global warming exceeds 1.5°C (2.7°F). In some areas, it will be impossible if global warming exceeds 2°C (3.6°F). This key finding underscores the urgency of climate action, with a focus on equity and justice. Adequate financing, technology transfer, political commitment and partnership lead to more effective adaptation to climate change and reduction of emissions.
“The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner.
The Working Group II report examines the impacts of climate change on nature and people around the world. It explores the future impacts at different levels of warming and the resulting risks and offers options to build the resilience of nature and society to ongoing climate change, to fight hunger, poverty and inequality and to to keep the Earth a worthwhile place to live in – for present and future generations.
Working Group II introduces several new elements in its latest report: one is a special section on climate change impacts, risks and options for action for cities and seaside human settlements, tropical forests, mountains, biodiversity hotspots, drylands and deserts, the Mediterranean as well as the polar regions. Another is an atlas that will present data and results on the observed and projected impacts and risks of climate change from global to regional scales, providing even more information for decision-makers.
The Summary for Policymakers of Working Group II's contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) as well as additional documents and information are available at https://www.ipcc.ch/ report/ar6/wg2/
Note: Originally scheduled for release in September 2021, the report was delayed for several months by the COVID-19 pandemic as the work of the scientific community, including the IPCC, moved online. This is the second time that the IPCC has held a virtual approval session for one of its reports.
AR6 Working Group II in numbers
270 authors from 67 countries
47 – coordinating authors
184 – main authors
39 – editors
675 – contributing authors
More than 34,000 cited references
A total of 62,418 reviews from experts and government reviews
(Draft first order 16,348; Draft second order 40,293; Final government distribution: 5,777)
About the IPCC
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body responsible for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide political leaders with periodic scientific assessments of climate change, its implications and risks, as well as to propose adaptation and mitigation strategies. In the same year, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the action of WMO and UNEP to jointly establish the IPCC. It has 195 member states.
Thousands of people around the world contribute to the work of the IPCC. For the Assessment Reports, IPCC scientists volunteer their time to assess the thousands of scientific papers published each year to provide a comprehensive summary of what is known about the drivers of climate change, its impacts and the future risks, and how adaptation and mitigation can reduce those risks.
The IPCC has three working groups: Working Group I, which deals with the basic physical sciences of climate change; Working Group II, dealing with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III, dealing with climate change mitigation. It also has a National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Working Group that develops methods to measure emissions and removals. Within the framework of the IPCC, a working group on data support for climate change assessments (TG-Data) provides guidance to the Data Distribution Center (DDC) on the conservation, traceability, stability, availability and transparency of data and scenarios related to IPCC reports.
IPCC assessments provide governments at all levels with scientific information they can use to develop climate policies. IPCC assessments are an essential contribution to international negotiations aimed at tackling climate change. IPCC reports are drafted and reviewed in several stages, thereby ensuring objectivity and transparency. An IPCC Assessment Report consists of contributions from the three Working Groups and a Synthesis Report. The synthesis report incorporates the findings of the three working group reports and any special reports prepared during this evaluation cycle.
About the Sixth Evaluation Round
At its 41st session in February 2015, the IPCC decided to produce a Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). At its 42nd session in October 2015, it elected a new Bureau that would oversee the work on this report and the special reports that will be produced during the evaluation cycle.
Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and global greenhouse gas emissions pathways in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty was launched in October 2018.
Climate Change and Land, an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems was launched in August 2019, and the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate was released in September 2019.
In May 2019, the IPCC released the 2019 Improvement Report to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, an update of the methodology used by governments to estimate their greenhouse gas emissions and absorptions.
In August 2021, the IPCC published Working Group I contribution to AR6, Climate Change 2021, the Physical Science Basis
Working Group III's contribution to AR6 is scheduled for early April 2022.
The Sixth Assessment Report Synthesis Report will be completed in the second half of 2022.