In February 2022 the IPCC* released a report called Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability . It's the second of three assessments looking into the human and environmental costs of climate change. This installment looks at the causes, impacts and potential solutions and builds on the first report released in August 2021, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.
So what exactly does this new report say?
Well, a lot! It goes into more detail about what will happen as we move from the. current 1.1 degree celsius of average global surface temperature warming towards 1.5 degrees.
In particular it builds on the science to explore and provide further guidance on what we can all expect - along with all other living things on the planet - the future to hold due to anthropogenic* (aka caused by human activity) climate change.
The report shows that:
- extreme weather events connected to climate change - like floods and heatwaves - are impacting people and other species more than previously thought, and at the high end of what the model scenarios predict
- between 2010 to 2020,15 times more people died from floods, droughts and storms in more vulnerable locations than in other parts of the world
- it says that overshooting a 1.5 degree rise means "there's an increasing risk of hitting tipping points" that are irreversible
- the impact of warming on nature is already dramatic - trees dying from drought, coral bleaching, sea level rise, both accelerating loss and migration of species (about half of species are already moving to higher ground or towards the poles. Nearly 15% are considered very high risk of extinction at 1.5 degrees of warming, rising to 29% with a 3 degrees temperature increase)
- all scenarios explored suggest a billion more people will be at risk from coastal climate events in the coming decades
- about 40% of the human population are "highly vulnerable" to the impacts of climate change for various reasons, including how habitable where they live will be to food security
- if temperatures increase beyond 1.5 degrees, towards 1.8, up to half the human population could be exposed to life threatening heat and humidity events
- the report discusses how technology alone is not a silver bullet and that carbon removal may also trigger release in a "rebound effect" from existing carbon sinks*
- it calls for 30-50% of the planet to be conserved and highlights how that will have a significant impact limiting the more extreme outcomes
- it highlights that climate justice, investing in education, health systems and social justice will help people to adapt and cope with the impacts in the future
- we are beyond the point where "minor, marginal, reactive or incremental changes" will prepare society for climate impacts. We need big and sustained action now
Decade of Action
Professor Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC, says "...clearly indicates that places where people live and work may cease to exist and species we've grown up with...may disappear. So this is a key moment, this is the decade of action, if we are going to turn things around."
There is still time. A lead author of the report, Dr Helen Adams, says that "the future depends on us, not the climate." While some of the changes we're already seeing are irreversible, what we do now and how fast we do it, will make a difference. We are able to slow, and sometimes reverse the impacts, as well as reduce the severity of climate change both for humans and all other living things on the planet.
This next decade is the one that will have the most impact in mitigating the worst effects of the climate change that it already happening. It is also our opportunity to prepare to adapt to a hotter climate with more frequent weather events and extremes.
The report stresses the importance of Climate Resilient Development as an important route to making progress. It's "enabled when governments, civil society and the private sector make inclusive development choices that prioritise risk reduction, equity and justice, and when decision-making processes, finance and actions are integrated across governance levels, sectors and timeframes."
"Safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems is fundamental to climate resilient development... maintaining the resilience of biodiversity* and ecosystem services* at a global scale depends on effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30% to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean areas, including currently near-natural ecosystems."
We need to work together and with a new level of consideration and co-ordination to make this our new reality. It's all to play for and the next decade is crucial.
More to come on this as we dig further into the report!
What's next? Take a look at our free 4-day email course, based on the science in the first IPCC AR6 report from August 2021.
Have hope, make progress! 💚
Climate Buzzword Dictionary
IPCC - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A United Nations organization set up to assess and document the evidence for climate change. They bring together scientists and scientific papers to assess the evidence
Anthropogenic - sciencey word meaning "caused by human activity"
Greenhouse Gases - Abbreviated to GHG. 98% made up of Carbon Dioxide, Methane or Nitrous Oxide. Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. See Carbon and Equivalen
Emissions - the creation and release of Greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by human activities
The Climate Crisis / Climate Change - the accelerating heating of our planet due to human activity
Carbon sinks - places in nature that absorb carbon and lock it away for the long term, so it's not in the atmosphere, for example oceans and forests
Biodiversity - the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable to maintain balanced ecosystems
Ecosystem Services - all natural occurring benefits from animal and plant-life. Grouped into 4 categories: Provisioning, Regulating, Cultural and Supporting. Everything from forests to fruit to pollinating insects + a lot more!
Learn more climate science and related terminology