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09th Aug 2021

Major climate change “inevitable and irreversible,” UN report warns

Kieran Galpin

“This is a code red for humanity.”

Human activity is changing the Earth’s climate in ‘unprecedented’ ways in thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, according to the UN’s latest report by leading climate scientists.

Experts at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have even warned some of the changes now inevitable and “irreversible”, in what amounts to the starkest warning yet.

Within 20 years, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, which falls short of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Only immediate and wholesale reductions in greenhouse emissions in the coming decade can help alleviate climate disaster, with every fraction of a degree of further heating likely to worsen the impact.

The IPCC has looked at over 14,000 scientific papers to help gauge the impending impact of climate change. Environmental experts believe it will be a “massive wake-up call” for governments to seriously address the climate crisis and the impact it will have on the planet over the coming decades.

The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the UN and is used to supply world governments with information surrounding the climate crisis. Scientists say the latest report is bad news – but with “nuggets of optimism”.

The intergovernmental panel brings together representatives of world governments, which has not been called since 2013. The scientific community believes it has learnt a lot since then, which should give them a more realistic vision of Earth’s future.

“Our models have gotten better, we have a better understanding of the physics and the chemistry and the biology, and so they’re able to simulate and project future temperature changes and precipitation changes much better than they were,” said Dr Stephen Cornelius, an observer at IPCC meetings.

“Another change has been that attribution sciences have increased vastly in the last few years. We can make greater links between climate change and extreme weather events.”

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, warned: “This is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”