The latest scientific assessment from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report said that human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways. The scientists forecast no end to warming trends until emissions cease.
The assessment released on Monday is the work of more than 200 scientists digesting thousands of studies, and an accompanying summary was approved by delegates from 195 countries.
An epochal new report warns that the planet will warm by 1.5° Celsius in the next two decades without drastic moves to eliminate greenhouse gas pollution.
“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land,” wrote the authors of the IPCC’s sixth global science assessment since 1990 and the first released in more than eight years. The crucial warming threshold of 2°C will be “exceeded during the 21st century,” the IPCC authors concluded, without deep emissions cuts “in the coming decades.”
The document is “a code red for humanity,” said Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, in prepared remarks tied to the release. “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet.”
But scientists say a catastrophe can be avoided if the world acts fast.
There is hope that deep cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases could stabilise rising temperatures.
Echoing the scientists’ findings, Guterres said: “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success.”
The report is the first major review of the science of climate change since 2013. Its release comes less than three months before a key climate summit in Glasgow known as COP26.
Among the headline findings: The past decade was most likely hotter than any period in the last 125,000 years, when sea levels were as much as 10 meters higher. Combustion and deforestation have also raised carbon dioxide in the atmosphere higher than they’ve been in two million years, according to the report, and agriculture and fossil fuels have contributed to methane and nitrous oxide concentration higher than any point in at least 800,000 years.