Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report

On 28 February, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) launched. The report focuses on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, while recognising the interdependence of climate, ecosystems and biodiversity, and human societies.

The irreversible damage already caused; a call for urgent political action, and an emphasis on systems change and climate justice; the role of cities, conservation and Indigenous knowledge: Here are our seven takeaways from the report.

 

Climate change has already caused irreversible damage

Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability. Some development and adaptation efforts have reduced vulnerability. Across sectors and regions the most vulnerable people and systems are observed to be disproportionately affected. The rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt…

Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage. Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions…

Soft limits to some human adaptation have been reached, but can be overcome by addressing a range of constraints, primarily financial, governance, institutional and policy constraints. Hard limits to adaptation have been reached in some ecosystems…

Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.

 

Adaptation must be long-termist

“Progress in adaptation planning and implementation has been observed across all sectors and regions, generating multiple benefits. However, adaptation progress is unevenly distributed with observed adaptation gaps. Many initiatives prioritise immediate and near-term climate risk reduction which reduces the opportunity for transformational adaptation

Integrated, multi-sectoral solutions that address social inequities, differentiate responses based on climate risk and cut across systems, increase the feasibility and effectiveness of adaptation in multiple sectors.”

 

Focus on systems change

“This report has a particular focus on transformation and system transitions in energy; land, ocean, coastal and freshwater ecosystems; urban, rural and infrastructure; and industry and society. These transitions make possible the adaptation required for high levels of human health and well-being, economic and social resilience, ecosystem health, and planetary health.”

 

Climate justice is social justice

“The report recognises the value of diverse forms of knowledge such as scientific, as well as Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge in understanding and evaluating climate adaptation processes and actions to reduce risks from human-induced climate change. AR6 highlights adaptation solutions which are effective, feasible, and conform to principles of justice. The term climate justice, while used in different ways in different contexts by different communities, generally includes three principles: Distributive justice which refers to the allocation of burdens and benefits among individuals, nations and generations; procedural justice which refers to who decides and participates in decision-making; and recognition which entails basic respect and robust engagement with and fair consideration of diverse cultures and perspectives…

Pataxó women created the Jaqueira Reserve, comprising 827 hectares in the Environmental Protection Area of the Coroa Vermelha Indigenous Territory in South Bahia.

Vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions, driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalisation, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance. Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change

Climate resilient development is facilitated by international cooperation and by governments at all levels working with communities, civil society, educational bodies, scientific and other institutions, media, investors and businesses; and by developing partnerships with traditionally marginalised groups, including women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, local communities and ethnic minorities. These partnerships are most effective when supported by enabling political leadership, institutions, resources, including finance, as well as climate services, information and decision support tools.”

 

Political commitment and follow-through required

“Enabling conditions are key for implementing, accelerating and sustaining adaptation in human systems and ecosystems. These include political commitment and follow-through, institutional frameworks, policies and instruments with clear goals and priorities, enhanced knowledge on impacts and solutions, mobilisation of and access to adequate financial resources, monitoring and evaluation, and inclusive governance processes.”

 

Cities can be centers of mitigation and adaptation

“Interactions between changing urban form, exposure and vulnerability can create climate change-induced risks and losses for cities and settlements. However, the global trend of urbanisation also offers a critical opportunity in the near-term, to advance climate resilient development. Integrated, inclusive planning and investment in everyday decision-making about urban infrastructure, including social, ecological and grey/physical infrastructures, can significantly increase the adaptive capacity of urban and rural settlements. Equitable outcomes contributes to multiple benefits for health and well-being and ecosystem functions, including for Indigenous Peoples, marginalised and vulnerable communities. Climate resilient development in urban areas also supports adaptive capacity in more rural places through maintaining peri-urban supply chains of goods and services and financial flows. Coastal cities and settlements play an especially important role in advancing climate resilient development.”

 

Conservation is key

“Safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems is fundamental to climate resilient development, in light of the threats climate change poses to them and their roles in adaptation and mitigation. Recent analyses, drawing on a range of lines of evidence, suggest that maintaining the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem functions at a global scale depends on effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30 per cent to 50 per cent of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean areas, including currently near-natural ecosystems.”

 

Read the full IPCC Sixth Assessment Report

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations composed of thousands of scientists and other expert volunteers. They do not conduct original research nor monitor climate change, but rather undertake a periodic, systematic review of all relevant published literature. Their reports provides objective and comprehensive scientific information on climate change impacts and risks as well as possible responses.

 
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