It seems as if the United Nations is releasing a new report every couple of weeks. Yesterday, the Climate Change Synthesis Report was released, summarizing all climate report releases since the IPCC Working Group 5 report of 2013.
The takeaway? Climate change is happening. Humans made it worse. And we have the tools to fix it. These have been the main messages since the 2007 report, highlighted also in the newest 2013 report.
In case you forgot, the IPCC stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sponsored by the United Nations. They bring together scientists from around the world to figure out how the world is changing and what can be done about it.
Here is a list of a few of the main declarations. As you may notice, if you’ve been following these reports, a lot of these statements may sound similar to the 2007 report and years after:
- Atmosphere: “Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding
decade since 1850.”
- Oceans: “On a global scale, the ocean warming is largest near the surface…”
- Cryosphere (ice): “Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass (high
confidence). Glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide (high confidence). Northern
Hemisphere spring snow cover has continued to decrease in extent (high confidence).”
- Sea level: “Over the period 1901–2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19 m.”
- Greenhouse gases: “Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are at levels that are unprecedented in at least
800,000 years.” 800,000 YEARS, PEOPLE. (Read this article from ABC News Australia for more on that front.)
- Human drivers of emissions: “About half of the cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2011 have occurred in the last 40 years (high confidence).”
What can we learn from this report? Well, everything is still happening. We are still warming, we are still increasing sea level rise, and greenhouse gases are still rising. But the ozone layer is beginning to repair itself, which means we are phasing out the use of harmful chemicals. Also, the use of renewables is increasing, which means we are burning less fossil fuels.
The most harmful human impact of these findings is the amount of people who are being displaced by climate:
“Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems. Risks
are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in
countries at all levels of development. Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of
severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts for people, species and ecosystems. Continued high
emissions would lead to mostly negative impacts for biodiversity, ecosystem services, and economic
development and amplify risks for livelihoods and for food and human security.”
Those in developing countries are more likely to be displaced, injured and die from the side-effects of climate change. So if you don’t want to make a change for yourself, make a change for them. Bike to work. Walk to the store. Use less. That helps everyone.