the UN has released its long-awaited climate change report and its starkest warning yet. published yesterday on august 9th by the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), the report warns of ‘irreversible’ changes and faster warming that will only be limited by ‘immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions’. here are the key takeaways from the report.



humans are responsible for the rise in the earth’s global temperature and it won’t stop rising unless immediate action is taken. the report attributes around 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900 to greenhouse gases from human activities. and if we continue on this trajectory, the global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming over the next 20 years.



‘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 valérie masson-delmotte, IPCC working group I co-chair.

UN climate change report

image by chris gallagher on unsplash (main image by matt palmer on unsplash)



rising temperatures will bring more extreme weather conditions to every part of the world. if we reach 1.5°C of global warming, there’ll be more heatwaves, longer summers and shorter winters. by 2°C, the report states that ‘heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health’.



not only heatwaves, but the rise in global temperature will also affect ocean ecosystems and rainfall patterns, cause more flooding and more intense drought. glaciers and ice sheets will continue to melt, meaning sea levels will keep rising and more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas will occur. worryingly, the IPCC also reports that ‘extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.’



‘this report is a reality check,’  continued masson-delmotte. ‘we now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.’



overall, the UN report clearly points to CO2 as the main driver of climate change and calls for a rapid reduction in emissions. ‘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 panmao zhai, IPCC working group I co-chair.



the IPCC working group I report, climate change 2021: the physical science basis, is the first installment of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report (AR6), which will be completed in 2022. ‘this report reflects extraordinary efforts under exceptional circumstances,’  said hoesung lee, chair of the IPCC. ‘the innovations in this report, and advances in climate science that it reflects, provide an invaluable input into climate negotiations and decision-making.’



you can read the full IPCC assessment report here, and explore the impact of climate change region by region in an interactive map here.