The synthesis of the latest IPCC report: a summary of the current climate situation

After several months of waiting, the synthesis of the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report has been published. This report synthesizes all the climate science research carried out over the last 8 years. It summarizes the current state of knowledge about climate change, as well as its impacts, risks, and mitigation and adaptation strategies.

In this article we will tell you:

  • How the latest IPCC report (synthesis report) was made.
  • The structure of the report
  • The most important findings of each chapter in terms of:
    • Current climate science
    • The actions we need to take to mitigate the causes of climate change
    • The urgency with which we must take these actions
    • The IPCC’s projections for the coming decades

Some relevant IPCC data about the IPCC

To understand how this report was elaborated, one must  know what the IPCC is and how it works. Here are some key facts so that you can learn a bit more about this organization:

  • The IPCC was created in 1988 by the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) and UNEP (UN Environment Program).
  • The purpose of this panel is to “assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”
  • The IPCC does not conduct its own research. It collects all the scientific reports developed in the report’s period and compiles this information in its reports.
  • There are more than 600 scientists from all member countries who review, critically analyze and summarize the academic publications made in climate science in each study period.
  • Scientists working as authors, editors and contributors to the IPCC do not receive a salary but do so on a voluntary basis.
  • The IPCC is composed of 195 member countries.

The work of IPCC scientists is divided into three main groups:

  • Group 1: Deals with the physical basis of climate change.
  • Group 2: Works on the impact of climate change, adaptation and vulnerability.
  • Group 3: Studies climate change mitigation strategies.

How was the synthesis of the last IPCC report in 2023 elaborated?

With this information about the IPCC, we can now move on to the synthesis of the latest IPCC report. This synthesis was made on the basis of the three reports submitted by each of the working groups (1,2 and 3) in 2022.

In 2022, three reports were presented with the most updated data for each of the topics addressed by the working groups.

Then, the synthesis of the last IPCC report presented in 2023 is a summary of the critical climate science issues, and the adaptation and mitigation actions needed to combat the crisis that currently faces our planet.

The structure of the synthesis of the latest IPCC

The synthesis of the latest IPCC report is structured in three chapters:

  • Current status and trends
  • Future climate risks and long-term responses
  • Near-term actions

The following are the most important findings presented in each of the chapters of the synthesis of the latest IPCC report.

A- Current status and trends

This section of the report shows the current state of the global climate situation according to the latest scientific research. Some of the most relevant data are:

Global temperature and GHG emissions.

  1. Human activities have caused the Earth’s global warming, more specifically in 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. These increases are greater for land surfaces (1.59°C) than for ocean surfaces (0.88°C).
  2. Global land temperature has increased more from 1970 to 2020 than during any other 50-year period in the past 2000 years.
  3. In 2019, the  atmospheric CO2 concentration (410 ppm) was higher than at any time in the last 2 million years.

Another fact mentioned in this section is that the emissions reductions due to mitigation actions have been less than the increase in emissions due to the growth of industrial activities, energy use, and transportation, among others.

Climate catastrophes

On the other hand, it is also mentioned that deaths due to climate catastrophes between 2010 and 2020 have been 15 times higher in vulnerable regions than in low vulnerability regions. At the same time, almost half of the world’s population is currently experiencing water shortages.

International emission reduction commitments

Finally, they discuss how emission reduction commitments relate to the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement. It is mentioned that, according to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the probability that by 2030 the global temperature will increase by 1.5°C is 50%. In the event that the NDCs do not increase their ambition in the coming years, it is estimated that the temperature by 2100 will increase by 2.8°C.

Image 1: Limiting temperature increase to 1.5 or 2 degrees C requires immediate reduction actions. Source: IPCC
Image 1: Limiting temperature increase to 1.5 or 2 degrees C requires immediate reduction actions. Source: IPCC

B- Future climate risks and long-term responses

This section discusses the risks of postponing the necessary measures to mitigate the causes that generate climate change. Some data to highlight:

  • Global warming will continue to increase over the next 20 years due to the remaining concentration of atmospheric CO2 that we have already emitted.
  • Each increase in temperature will intensify climate hazards that will become more frequent and dangerous
  • A deep and rapid reduction in the concentration of GHGs will lead to a decrease in global warming of the Earth in about two decades.
  • As the Earth’s temperature rises, climate hazards will become more difficult to manage

Sea level rise

Sea level rise will be inevitable in the coming decades due to the warming that will occur as a result of the existing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. This phenomenon is caused by the melting of the poles, glaciers, and the increase in ocean temperatures (which expands at a higher temperature).

It is estimated that in the next 2000 years, the sea level will rise by 2 to 3 meters if we limit the Earth’s temperature by 1.5°C with respect to pre-industrial levels. If this limit is 2°C, the increase will be 2-6 meters.

Adaptation measures

The effectiveness of adaptation measures, including nature-based solutions, will decrease as global warming increases. Above 1.5°C, some marine corals, wetlands, and polar ecosystems will surpass their adaptive capacity and thus nature-based solutions will not be as effective.

Direct carbon sequestration (CDR)

In order to achieve the net zero targets set out in international agreements, it will be necessary to combine GHG emission mitigation strategies with CO2 capture methods.

C- Responses in the short term

This section lists the tools that both the public, private and civil society sectors must use to mitigate and adapt to the global situation in the coming decades.

The evidence shows that global resilient development actions are much more urgent than was thought in the AR5 report (the report prior to this one, published in 2014). Resilient climate development is achieved when governments, civil society and the private sector make inclusive decisions that prioritize risk reduction, equity and justice.

Another fact mentioned is that climate actions can have associated co-benefits. These include: reduced air pollution, and health benefits from choosing more sustainable forms of transportation (cycling, walking) and healthier, more sustainable dietary choices.

Finally, mitigation actions that aim to reduce air pollution levels can have economic benefits of equal magnitude to the costs of implementing these measures in the first instance.

The summary of the latest IPCC report: Final thoughts

According to the IPCC, the global climate situation is critical. However, there is hope. Much of this synthesis of the latest IPCC summary shows that by taking immediate action we can partially reverse the effects of global warming in as little as two decades.

This requires immense efforts, but above all a great commitment from the society, governments and the private sector. Technological development is a key factor in making sustainable options for energy production, transportation and food increasingly accessible in the coming years.

But we also need a cultural change in which we recognize that we are part of a society that is in danger. In this way, we will be able to commit ourselves to this cause that undoubtedly affects each and every one of us.

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