Climate change 'unprecedented' and 'irreversible' – IPCC

Human activity has driven unprecedented changes to the climate, and some of the changes, such as continued sea level rise, are irreversible for thousands of years, a damning UN report has revealed today.


The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also warns that global temperatures are set to hit 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels over the next 20 years, a decade earlier than previously forecast.

This will bring increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons, while 2°C of global warming would see heat extremes often reach “critical tolerance thresholds” for agriculture and health.

Although strong and sustained reductions in greenhouse gases would limit climate change, and air quality would improve quickly, the report warns that it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilise.

“This report is a reality check,” said IPCC Working Group I co-chair, Valérie 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.”

The IPCC's assessment is based on improved observational datasets to assess historical warming, as well progress in scientific understanding of the response of the climate system to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions

It is the first instalment of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report, which will be completed in 2022, and highlights how changes to rainfall patterns, permafrost thawing, and ocean acidification are all being observed by scientists worldwide.

Coastal areas are predicted to see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion, while extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.

IEMA said in a statement today: “The IPCC report is a devastating read – an increase in global surface temperature, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and more. All changes and observations that are attributable to human-driven climate change and we are running out of time to put things right.

“In order to have any chance of tackling the climate emergency, we must focus on delivering a truly green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, utilising skills and investing in people and infrastructure in a more environmentally sustainable way. 

“To do this we need a Green Skills and Jobs Strategy, that can enable all sectors of the economy to go greener.

“IEMA has also developed a greenhouse gas management hierarchy, specifically aimed at businesses and organisations to manage their emissions effectively and we urge this to be used across the UK economy in order to put us on the right path to net-zero emissions by 2050.”


Image credit: Shutterstock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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