‘Code red’: UN report warns climate change much faster than expected

Science and Health
Climate change is happening much faster than expected as extreme climate events increase around the world, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in a report on Monday.
The Working Group I Report is one of the most comprehensive reviews on climate science ever released. It was prepared over the course of five years by 234 leading scientists from at least 60 nations using data from more than 14,000 scientific publications.
Human activities have caused the climate to warm at a rate faster than anything experienced in at least the past 2,000 years, with the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reaching the highest levels in the past 800,000 years, the report said.
The report builds off of major advances in climate science, with data reflecting major advances in our understanding of how climate change is intensifying specific weather and climate events, such as heat waves and rainfall.

The global temperature will reach or exceed 1.5 degrees C of warming over the next 20 years, the report said. There is a 40% chance of reaching such a degree of warming within the next five years, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
Aside from the widespread effects such a degree of warming would have on the climate around the world, it is also considered a turning point after which positive feedback processes will make climate change self-sustaining.
“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.”
Increases in global temperature will harm ecosystems, species diversity, water availability and humanity’s ability to produce food, the report said.
Some of the changes that have already been set in motion by climate change, such as continued rises in sea level, are irreversible for hundreds to thousands of years, it said. Extreme sea-level events that used to take place just once every 100 years could happen every year by 2100, it added.
The scientists stressed that significant, immediate reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions would limit climate change, although it could take 20 to 30 years for global temperatures to stabilize.
The report gave a detailed assessment of climate change for specific regions, including a focus on useful information that can inform risk assessment, adaptation and other decision-making.
Concerning the Mediterranean region, which includes Israel, there has been an observed increase in droughts, the report said. There will be an increase in aridity and fire-causing weather conditions if average global temperatures warm by 2 degrees C or more, it predicted. Changes such as extreme temperatures, droughts, fire weather and higher sea levels are expected in the region by around 2050, according to the report.
The IPCC was established in 1988 and is the international body for assessing climate change, which aims to provide policy-makers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impact and future risks and options for adaptation and mitigation.
The IPCC is working on the Working Groups II and III reports, which will be completed in 2022. The Working Group II Report will assess the impacts of climate change and its implications for humanity. The Working Group III Report will assess progress in limiting emissions and the available options for mitigating emissions in various sectors.
Partner countries in the 2015 Paris Agreement pledged to act to keep the average global temperature rise, compared with the preindustrial period, to below 2 degrees C, and that an effort would be made to limit it to 1.5 degrees.
The report comes ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, which is set to begin on October 31.
“In the midst of another long and exhausting heat wave that we went through in Israel, this report should be a wake-up call for the Israeli government as well,” Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Schor, chief scientist at the Environmental Protection Ministry, and Alon Zask, senior vice president of natural resources at the ministry, said in a press release.
“It’s time to act fast to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions on the one hand and to better prepare for the inevitable effects of climate change on the other,” they said.
They called for “ambitious goals” to be set, for greenhouse-gas emissions to be brought to zero and for preparations to be made for the “unavoidable effects” of climate change, which are already being experienced today.
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) on Monday said: “The main points of the report prove beyond any doubt that the intensity and urgency of the climate crisis can no longer be denied, and more importantly, the connection between human actions and climate change cannot be denied or questioned. This connection can now be measured with advanced scientific tools, and this should constitute a wake-up call for the whole world.”
“In the last two months, Israel has begun necessary actions, but we must greatly accelerate our pace of action and readiness,” she said. “To this end, it is imperative to declare a climate emergency and define the climate crisis as a strategic threat from which to conduct preparatory actions.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday said the Working Group I Report is a “Code Red for humanity.”
“The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable,” he said. “Greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.”
We are at “imminent risk” of hitting 1.5 degrees C in the near term, Guterres said, adding that the global average is already at 1.2 C, with warming accelerating in recent decades.
No new coal plants should be built after 2021, and existing plants in OECD countries should be phased out by 2030, he said.
Guterres called for solar and wind capacity to quadruple by 2030 and the tripling of renewable-energy investments to maintain a trajectory toward net-zero emissions by mid-century.
“If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe,” he said. “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 new report “contains no real surprises,” climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted. “It confirms what we already know from thousands of previous studies and reports – that we are in an emergency. It’s a solid (but cautious) summary of the current best available science.”
The report “doesn’t tell us what to do,” she said.
“It is up to us to be brave and take decisions based on the scientific evidence provided in these reports,” Thunberg tweeted. “We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis.”