2021 UN Climate Report - Five Major Takeaways

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its 6th Assessment Report on the physical science of climate change on 9 August 2021. The latest report builds on 5-years of research which considers over 14,000 scientific papers and has been reviewed by 234 leading scientists from 66 countries.

The assessment report sheds light into the modern climate science and yields to policymakers the scientific knowledge on climate change and its impacts. The overriding message throughout the analysis clearly showcases the need for governments and corporations to set in place immediate, robust and dynamic policies, strategies and action plan to achieve a net-zero standard as soon as possible.

5 Key Takeaways

The five key takeaways from the ground-breaking IPCC climate report are as follows:

1. Human-induced: In a striking statement, the report pinpoints humans as the cause of the climate crisis. "It is 'unequivocal' the report calls that human activity is warming the planet." Previous IPCC reports had only suggested human involvement as 'very likely.'

2. Temperature rise: No matter how deeply we cut our emissions, temperatures will keep rising until at least mid-century. We are unlikely to keep the rise below 1.5ᵒC and will breach 2ᵒC without immediate and deep cuts.

3. Extreme weather: Weather will become more extreme with heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires all becoming more frequent. This will continue even under a 1.5ᵒC scenario.

4. Race against time: We are almost out of time. To limit warming to 1.5ᵒC, we must emit no more than 400 billion more tons of CO2. However, we are currently on course to emit that within a decade.

5. Taking action: We can still avert the worst impacts of climate change if we act today by drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the next decade and achieving net-zero emissions globally by 2050. We will still have a chance to meet the 1.5ᵒC target.

Reacting to the IPCC's Climate Report, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared the report is "a code red for humanity" and called on every nation, especially the G20 and other major carbon emitters to join the net-zero emissions coalition and reinforce their commitments with credible, concrete and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and policies before COP26 in Glasgow.

Simulated & Observed Data Charts

Human-induced: Change in average global temperature relative to 1850-1900, showing observed temperatures and computer simulations.

Figure 1: Source - IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers

The latest IPCC report is a stark warning from scientists that human activity is damaging the planet at an alarming rate. CO2 concentration has been highest in at least 200 million years which has attributed to the extreme weather events and sea-level rise.

How much hotter could it get? Change in average global temperature relative to 1850-1900, showing observed temperatures and future simulations.

Figure 2: Source – IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers

Scientists have modeled likely ranges for different levels of emissions with sea-level rise. A rise of about 2m by the end of this century and a 5m rise by 2150 is still possible. Such outcomes remain unlikely and would threaten millions of people in coastal areas with flooding by 2100.

Average rise in sea level relative to 1900.

Figure 3: Source - IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers

Almost every nation on Earth has pledged to the Paris climate agreement in 2015. This pact aims to keep global temperatures rise well below 2ᵒC this century and to pursue efforts to keep it under 1.5ᵒC.

The IPCC report suggests that under all the emissions scenarios considered by the scientists, both targets will be broken this century unless significant reductions in carbon emissions take place. It's all in our hands.

What To Do Next

NUS Consulting Group is currently supporting several multinational corporations (from across the facilities management, manufacturing, food and drink, and chemicals industries) with Net-Zero Strategies to calculate and quantify scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions and provide a decarbonization roadmap to reach a net-zero standard.

Our sustainability experts can provide support at every stage of the net-zero journey, from alignment and orientation to the implementation of decarbonization measures.

Kharam Khalsa

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