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TARMO VIRKI / August 10, 2021

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Climate Change Update From IPCC

From floods in Germany to heatwaves in Lapland and droughts in Brazil - climate change and its implications are making headlines around the world.

So it was no surprise that when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its nearly 4,000-page long scientific report — the world’s most prominent media outlets were not shy in their use of words. CNN said it was “the final warning”, BBC called it “code red for humanity”, The Atlantic just bluntly “a catastrophe”. We sat down with the report to look beyond the headlines and see what stands out.

THE GOOD

Scientists are more optimistic than before that global warming can still stay within the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise from prehistoric times. For this to happen, global carbon emissions need to reach a net-zero level by 2050 — this, however, needs immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in the emissions.

Even with the cuts, extreme weather will be more common, but the impacts are limited. Unless there are drastic cuts in emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5 or even 2 degrees will be beyond reach, and the average rise in the temperature could be even beyond 3 degrees.

THE BAD

Extreme weather is already here, and their likelihood is only rising, even if capping carbon emissions succeeds at +1.5 degrees.

  • Once-in-a-decade droughts could occur every five or six years

  • Once-in-50-years extreme heat waves are expected to happen every six years

  • Once-in-100-years extreme sea-level events, like coastal flooding, could happen every year by the end of this century

THE UGLY

The turn to worse started with the Industrial Revolution, but the radical change for the worse over the last few decades is long-lasting. The scientists said they were highly confident it would take several centuries to millennia for sea level to reverse course even under large net negative CO2 emissions.

The average sea level will rise at least 0.5-1 meters by 2100, but the scientists said they could not rule out a rise of 2 meters. For some countries, like the Maldives, this would be the end as the country is on average less than 2 meters above sea level. 

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