The IPCC's August 2021 report is "a code red for humanity".

In collaboration with Paloma Alonso Dromant (palomadromant@gmail.com).

On Monday 9 August 2021, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) officially released the sixth climate change report "AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis". Working Group I's contribution to AR6 addresses the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change, bringing together the latest advances in climate science and combining multiple lines of evidence from palaeoclimate, observations and understanding of global and regional climate processes and simulations.

"A red alert for humanity" is how UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutérres describes the conclusions of the conference. In his own words "The viability of our societies depends on government leaders, business and civil society uniting around policies, actions and investments that limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We owe it to the entire human family, especially the poorest and most vulnerable communities and nations, who are the hardest hit despite being the least responsible for the current climate emergency. The alarm bells are deafening (...) This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet".

Some basic facts from the IPCC Report:

  1. The global average temperature was 1.09 °C higher between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.
  2. The last five years were the warmest on record since 1850.
  3. The recent rate of sea level rise has almost tripled compared to 1901-1971.
  4. Human influence is "very likely" (90%) the main driver of global glacier retreat since the 1990s and the decline of Arctic sea ice.
  5. It is "virtually certain" that temperature extremes, including heat waves, have become more frequent and intense since the 1950s, while cold events have become less frequent and less severe.

As for Spain, as a country in the European Mediterranean region, the report foresees an increase in aridity and climatic conditions that will favour fires if action is not taken immediately. By the middle of the century, much more extreme temperatures, increased droughts, reduced precipitation and snow cover are predicted.

Scientists believe the world hears their warnings, but fails to act on them. "Only sharp and sustained reductions in greenhouse gases in this decade can prevent such climate degradation, and every fraction of a degree of additional warming is likely to exacerbate the accelerating effects," warns the world's leading authority on climate science. A drastic reduction in greenhouse gases would bring rapid benefits for air quality. However, experts warn that global temperatures will need 20 to 30 years to stabilise.

Furthermore, the report confirms that there is no going back on some of the changes that are already affecting the climate system. It is a testament to the fact that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades have been wholly insufficient. As the IPCC Summary for Policymakers underlines, limiting warming to 1.5°C can only be achieved through immediate and significantly deeper reductions. And the only way to achieve this goal is through the rapid implementation of more ambitious NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions).

Currently, just over half of the Parties to the Paris Agreement have submitted new or updated NDCs. However, all countries that have not yet done so have the opportunity to submit more ambitious NDCs. And those nations that have already submitted new or updated NDCs still have time to review and improve their level of ambition.

It is not too late to try to correct some of the mistakes of the past, but we must act now and with precision.

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