Climate Scientists Meet as Floods, Fires and Droughts Hit Batter Countries
Click to enlarge the image and toggle caption Ivan Nikiforov/AP Ivan Nikiforov/AP
Today, more than 200 climate scientists from around the globe will meet to complete a landmark report that summarises how the climate on Earth has changed and what the future holds for humanity.
This sixth edition of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) assessment of climate science is available. It is the UN body responsible for coordinating research on global warming. This report's last edition was published in 2013. 2013 is a long time in climate science. The pace of research and warming are both steadily increasing.
There has never been a greater need to address global warming than now. The two-week-long virtual meeting of IPCC scientists coincides alongside a host of climate-driven disasters around the globe. These include flash floods in Europe and North America, intense wildfires across Siberia, and widespread droughts and heat waves that could threaten food supplies in the U.S. and Middle East.
This new report will be an important document for world leaders. It is the international scientific consensus on human-caused climate changes. It is used by governments to help them develop policies to reduce greenhouse gas emission, manage forests and fisheries, and protect their citizens against extreme weather. The world's leaders will meet in November for the first time since 2019, to discuss their pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, these promises are not enough to stop catastrophic warming this century.
The IPCC report takes many years to compile. It is divided into 12 chapters that cover everything, from the heat-trapping capabilities of individual greenhouse gasses to extreme weather events to regional effects of global warming. The final draft will be completed by the authors over the course of two weeks.
These are the three things you should be looking out for.
The last ten years have seen a lot of progress in climate science.
This new report will provide the most complete, detailed, and accurate picture ever of the global climate. Scientists use computer models to predict how climate will change over the next decade, a decade after the last edition. Satellites, buoys, and historical information about the climate from rocks, ice, and mud make it easier to feed these models.
These advances enable scientists to predict how fast the Earth heats up and how greenhouse gases trap heat will impact everything, from sea levels and hurricanes, to droughts, and heat waves.
Scientists considered all climate research published prior to February 2021 in this report. This is a huge number of studies on the Earth's atmosphere and oceans as well as weather patterns. Today's meeting will be focused on how to phrase the key takeaways. For example, how fast the Earth is moving towards the 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) warming threshold established by the Paris climate accord in order to prevent the worst effects of global warming.
Scientists are envisioning five future scenarios
The report's primary goal is to assist governments in making decisions about climate change mitigation. While the report will not tell governments what they should do, it will help them understand the impacts of different policies.
If humans stop burning coal, this will drastically reduce global warming. What if we stop using coal for five years? Or in ten years. What if solar panels become really affordable and the population grows slower? What does this mean for climate change? These questions will be answered by the new IPCC report, which uses five hypothetical policy scenarios.
These scenarios are the first time that the IPCC has used them. They are basically a set of imagined worlds in which different countries pursue different climate policies.
One example is that countries in one country work together to create low-cost, low carbon technologies and quickly put them into action for all. One world is very different from another. Some countries or groups of people move quickly to renewable energy sources like solar, wind and other clean energies, while others take longer. In another imaginary world, nationalism is rampant and governments are more concerned with local energy and food security than making global economic changes to reduce greenhouse gases emissions.
Each scenario takes into consideration population growth, GDP, and a host other demographic, economic, and technological possibilities.
According to Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist from the University of California at Berkeley, most scenarios still make it possible for global warming to stay below 2 degrees Celsius. The new report will provide information on the many options available to address climate change.
Although the Biden administration has pledged to reduce U.S. carbon emissions by half by 2030, it has not provided a detailed plan on how to do so. Congress is uncertain about the future of a major infrastructure package that would fund cleaner transportation and electricity.
This report will contain regional information, which is the first time.
This marks the first time that the IPCC has broken down its global climate science findings into regions. This is a significant step because climate change can be different depending on where you live. The Arctic is heating twice as fast than the rest of the Earth and sea levels are rising faster in certain areas than others.
Many countries lack the resources or the ability to study the changing climate in their area and predict the future. This leaves governments unaware of the local rate of sea level rise or the possibility of drought or extreme rainfall. It's difficult to determine the priority of infrastructure and housing built for the climate in the future without localized information.
A chapter on regional climate change is included in the forthcoming IPCC report. A regional dashboard online that is interactive and accessible via the Internet by the IPCC will be released. This allows policymakers to select their region and view current and future climate conditions.
The new IPCC regional data will not be used by the U.S. government. The U.S. has already access to localized data via the National Climate Assessment, which is published by the federal government every few year. The 2023 edition of the next edition will be published.