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IPCC Climate Report 2022

Laura von Puttkamer
Genève

The new IPCC Climate Report clearly states: we are running out of time.

"There is no planet B", climate demonstration in San Francisco (Photo: Li-An Lim on Unsplash)

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In the end of February 2022, the IPCC published its new report. The message: we are running out of time. Here we have summarised the contents and collected first reactions.

On February 28, 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report called “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”. The report details how human-induced climate change is causing “dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks.” Scientists also emphasised that those people and ecosystems least able to cope with climate change effects are being hit the hardest.

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The IPCC Climate Report 2022

Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC, said: “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inactions. 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.”

Even if global warming can be limited to 1.5 °C, there will be multiple hazards all over the world for the next two decades and beyond. Exceeding this temperature limit, severe and in many cases irreversible impacts will appear.

195 member governments of the IPCC approved the report during a virtual approval session that was held between February 14 and February 28, 2022.

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Development of global mean surface temperature © IPCC

The world needs urgent action now

Catastrophes like heatwaves, droughts, floods, and torrential rainfalls are already a huge strain on plants, animals, and humans. Many of these weather extremes occur simultaneously, leading to cascading impacts. Examples include food and water insecurity, loss of life, biodiversity, and infrastructure.

These are the main messages of the IPCC Climate Report 2022:

  • With a current temperature increase of 1.1 °C compared to pre-industrial temperatures, climate change is already more widespread and creating more severe disruptions than expected. This results, for example, in millions of climate refugees and in crop productivity decline, especially on the African continent.
  • Until at least 2040, the world will continue to see similar and worse catastrophes even if rapid decarbonisation occurred today. Millions of people will be driven into extreme poverty and increased flood risks will lead to consequences like tens of thousands of children dying from diarrhoea due to contaminated water.
  • Even a temperature rise of 0.1 °C leads to escalating impacts on species extinction, water availability and the weather. Therefore, it must be a priority to stay below even the 1.5 °C limit as detailed in the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Up to 3.6 billion people live in countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. Challenges such as inequity, conflict, and development only heighten this vulnerability to climate change.
  • Adaptation is a key strategy in reducing climate risks. The IPCC 2022 Climate Report notes that there are many adaptation solutions that work. These range from social programs to ecosystem restoration and flood control channels. However, they are often too small, too slow, or not sufficiently funded.
  • Irreversible damage has been done already, such as losing coral reef ecosystems and low-lying neighbourhoods. To address losses and damages, the world needs urgent action now.

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Cities as hotspots, but also part of the solution

The IPCC Climate Report 2022 provides a detailed assessment of the impacts, risks, and adaptation strategies in cities. More than half of the world’s population already lives in urban centres. Their livelihoods, as well as critical infrastructure, are located in cities, which in many cases are experiencing adverse effects from climate related impacts.

The combination of growing urbanisation, especially in countries more vulnerable to climate change, and of climate change, results in complex risks. This is particularly true for cities that have experienced poorly planned urban growth, high poverty levels, and a lack of basic services.

At the same time, the IPCC Climate Report 2022 points out that cities provide many opportunities for climate action, as detailed in Sustainable Development Goal 13. Renewable energy supplies, green buildings and sustainable transport systems are key elements for the path towards a greener future. By involving everyone in planning and by paying special attention to equity and justice as well as drawing on local knowledge, it is possible to create adaptation strategies in cities that avoid unintended consequences such as destroying nature of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

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A narrow window for action

The IPCC Climate Report 2022 emphasises the narrow and narrowing window for action in halting climate change. The next few years are a narrow window to change course. This will require immediate, ambitious, and concerted efforts to drastically reduce emissions, build resilience, conserve ecosystems, and increase finance for adaptation and loss and damage measures.

Here, the COP27 conference in Egypt in late 2022 will provide a crucial opportunity for governments to make progress. The countries of the global North and those less affected by climate change must show their solidarity with the more vulnerable nations.

Effective action requires governments, civil society, and the private sector to step up every day. While the COP27 is an important event, there is no alternative than to make use of the current narrow for action whenever and wherever possible. The IPCC reports provides ample evidence and many examples for local action to inspire change.

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Reactions to the IPCC Climate Report 2022

Typically, the IPCC publishes one comprehensive scientific assessment report every six to seven years. The IPCC Climate Report 2022 is the second instalment of the Sixth Assessment Report. The first instalment was published in August 2021. Working Group II drew from 34,000 studies and included 270 authors from 67 countries to provide a comprehensive examination of the intensifying impacts of climate change and related risks.

Reactions to the 2022 report, which came just days after devastating floods in Australia and the news of armed conflict breaking out in the Ukraine, came with heavy hearts. The Guardian speaks of bleak, stark and brutal findings. António Guterres, the United Nation’s Secretary General, said: “I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this. Today’s IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering, and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”

Two more IPCC Climate Reports are expected to make up the four-part Sixth Assessment Report.

Despite the war in Ukraine overshadowing any other news at the moment, the world must take action.

Also interesting: Large companies are also trying to lead their contribution to climate change. McKinsey is focusing on net-zero transition. Find out more here.

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