The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published a major new report summarising the science behind climate change and sounding a “code red for humanity”.
The assessment report, endorsed by 195 governments around the world, warns that unless greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are dramatically reduced – and fast – we will face increasingly extreme floods, droughts and heatwaves, plus see global temperatures increase by more than 1.5°C (the Paris Agreement limit) in a little over 10 years.
Commenting on the report, UN Secretary General António 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.”
Key findings from the report include:
- Human activities are “unequivocally” warming the planet – a “statement of fact”, according to the report’s authors. They go on to state that since 1970 global surface temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50 year period in the last 2,000 years.
- Number of extreme weather events to increase – once considered rare these type of extreme weather events, including droughts, flooding and concurrent heatwaves, will continue to happen more frequently.
- CO2 levels at highest in “2 million years” – in addition to reducing CO2 emissions, the world must also deliver “strong, rapid and sustained reductions” to the levels of both methane and nitrous oxide.
- Sea levels will continue to rise – even if global warming was limited to 1.5°C, the average sea level would still rise by around 2-3 metres – higher if temperatures continue to rise past this point.
- Farmers have a key role to play in the battle against climate change – animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-greenhouse gas emission systems, present major opportunities for climate adaptation and mitigation, while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health.
- We are running out of time – without immediate and dramatic reductions to GHG emissions”it is more likely than not” that the world will reach 1.5°C at some point between now and 2040.
Some of the reaction to the IPCC’s assessment is below:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“Today’s report makes for sobering reading, and it is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet.
“We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline.”
“The UK is leading the way, decarbonising our economy faster than any country in the G20 over the last two decades. I hope today’s IPCC report will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow in November for the critical COP26 summit.”
NFU President Minette Batters said:
“It is clear that the IPCC recognises the important role animal products play in a balanced diet, and when produced sustainably in low greenhouse gas emission systems actually part of the solution to climate change.
“It is therefore incredibly frustrating to see this inflated within some part of the media to recommending a reduction of meat consumption in the UK.
“I take this opportunity to reiterate that our aspiration to become net zero – reducing our greenhouse gas footprint and offsetting emissions – by 2040 does not mean downsizing agricultural production. This would only export our production to countries which may not have the same standards of environmental protection.
“With last year’s weather extremes and the recent flooding in Yorkshire, there is no denying that we are already seeing the impacts of climate change and it is encouraging that the report recognises the threat the climate poses on food security. We now need to see government policies that will support the farming industry in delivering on its net zero ambition.”
Green Finance Institute chief executive Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas said:
“The IPCC report sets out the risks posed by our changing climate in substantial detail. This makes for difficult reading, but confirms the scale of the emergency we face.
“This updated scientific consensus must now be fully reflected in debt and equity valuations, and finance must be rapidly deployed towards sustainable and resilient solutions. This will require brave decision-making and unprecedented collaboration between public, private and philanthropic capital providers. But if we can identify the appropriate sources of funding and co-design the financial mechanisms needed by sector – and situation – to adapt, then we will transition the real economy to create a better future.”
WWF’s chief advisor on climate change Dr Stephen Cornelius said:
“This is a stark assessment of the frightening future that awaits us if we fail to act. With the world on the brink of irreversible harm, every fraction of a degree of warming matters to limit the dangers of climate change. It is clear that keeping global warming to 1.5C is hugely challenging and can only be done if urgent action is taken globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect and restore nature.
“The UK Government, as host of the most important climate conference since the Paris Agreement in 2015, must step up efforts and show climate leadership. This must start at home, with a credible strategy to deliver the promised net-zero emissions and a fiscal test to ensure all government spending is compatible with climate targets. We won’t forget the promises that have been made, nor will future generations.”
World Biogas Association Chief Executive Charlotte Morton said:
“Research from the WBA, other biogas trade bodies and UNEP, CCAC and the IEA, has demonstrated our industry’s potential to deliver a huge reduction in global GHG emissions, especially methane, within the next few years.
“Crucially, anaerobic digestion, the technology that produces biogas – also known as renewable natural gas or biomethane – as well as a biofertiliser, bioCO2 and other valuable bio-products, is ready to deliver on that potential now. What is badly missing is the political will to remove policy barriers to the growth of the sector – both at global and national levels.
“With the right policy framework in place, AD can cut emissions by 10% by 2030. The global biogas industry has already made a public commitment to play its role to deliver on this potential. Now it is down to the world’s politicians. We’re here, we’re ready – we’re waiting for YOUR commitment, and the world needs it NOW.”
Patrick Holden, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, said:
“We think many of the headlines about this report are not accurate and we instead need a much more nuanced public discussion about which foods, both livestock and plant-based, are part of the solution and which are part of the problem.
“It’s all very well for those recommending a switch to eating more plant-based foods, but if those diets include foods like palm oil, genetically modified soy, almond milk or avocados, for example, all of which are from production systems that are causing damage to the environment, they will do nothing to tackle climate change.”
The Energy and Climate Change Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) senior associate Richard Black said:
“Coming less than three months before COP26, this report is a huge wake-up call to all governments showing that as things stand, they are not on track to keep climate change within manageable bounds.
“The window to delivering the Paris Agreement 1.5°C limit without significant overshoot is closing fast – and missing that window will mean far greater expense in future on both unproven negative emission approaches and clearing up climate change impacts.
“COP26 presents a clear opportunity to implement credible policies in areas that will cut emissions quickly including ending coal use, restoring forests and cracking down on methane leaks – all of which also present economic opportunities.”
Green Alliance’s head of politics Chris Venables said:
“While this report should set off alarm bells around the world, the worry is that politicians will yet again hit the snooze button.
“Leadership starts at home. No more dither and delay. In the UK, we need the policy to match the ambition the Government has already shown.”
The Energy Networks Association’s chief executive David Smith said:
“The UK’s energy networks are some of the greenest and smartest in the world, but we need monumental action and collaboration across all industries to deliver net-zero. Today’s warning is stark. Action must be taken now to address the climate emergency. We urge the government to push forward in publishing the long-awaited Net-Zero, Hydrogen, and Heat and Buildings Strategies.”
The report from the IPCC is available to read in full here.