Climate scientists are increasingly concerned that global heating will trigger tipping points in Earth’s natural systems, which will lead to widespread and possibly irrevocable disaster unless action is taken urgently.
#NowReading from UN News – #IPCC opened the approval session for its next #ClimateReport on the physical science basis of climate change amid heatwaves, floods and drought. https://t.co/zs9Gij0L1h
— IPCC (@IPCC_CH) July 27, 2021
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is preparing the most comprehensive assessment on the state of global heating since 2013.
Over the next two weeks, the scientists will go through their findings line by line with representatives of 195 governments.
The IPCC is preparing a landmark report to be published in stages this summer and next year. Most of the report will not be published in time for consideration by policymakers at Cop26, the UN climate talks taking place in November in Glasgow.
Formed in 1988, the IPCC’s role is to provide politicians with assessments every six or seven years on the science, the impacts, and the potential options for tackling climate change.
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As the world has warmed over the past 30 years, the IPCC has become the most important platform for summarising the state of scientific understanding of the problem, its impacts, and solutions.
Tipping points are triggered when temperatures reach a certain level, whereby one impact rapidly leads to a series of cascading events with vast repercussions. For instance, as rising temperatures lead to the melting of Arctic permafrost, the unfreezing soil releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that in turn causes more heating.
“#ClimateChange is very visible. We are seeing more extreme events – heatwaves, drought and flooding.” – @WMO SG Petteri Taalas at today’s opening ceremony for the 54th Session of the #IPCC. pic.twitter.com/ldztosc8Fh
— IPCC (@IPCC_CH) July 26, 2021
Other tipping points include the melting of polar ice sheets, which once underway may be almost impossible to reverse even if carbon emissions are rapidly reduced, and which would raise sea levels catastrophically over many decades, and the possibility of the Amazon rainforest switching suddenly to savannah, which scientists have said could come quickly and with relatively small temperature rises.
Over the years, its reports have become more strongly worded as the evidence has mounted.
In 2013, its assessment said that humans were the dominant cause of global warming since the 1950s. That document helped set the scene for the Paris climate agreement signed in 2015.
As well as its six- or seven-year assessments, the IPCC has also produced special studies looking at specific scientific questions.
In 2018, the IPCC released a special report on keeping global temperature rise under 1.5C.
This document has had a significant impact on an emerging generation of young people, willing to take to the streets to demand a political response.
The IPCC’s latest summary of the science, to be published on 9 August, is also likely to have a big impact.
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