I started to write a summary of the IPCC climate report released yesterday and to highlight the 5 key takeaways but, when I woke up this morning, I had 57 emails from major news sources and climate experts which had done this for me.
Here is a good summary from The New York Times:
And here is another from the leading science journal Nature:
Instead of attempting to reinvent what has already been done well, let me provide some insights that these summaries have failed to address.
First, the IPCC is a governmental process, hence the first letter stands for ‘intergovernmental’. This means that a large group of government representatives with little or no training in climate science or any of the other technical discipline relevant to the IPCC reports review all the reports before they are released—and this leads to major edits to the reports. Government representatives from Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil, for example, are notorious for their efforts to water down some of the IPCC reports key findings. The result is that the IPCC reports cannot be described as having highlighted key findings which reflect the consensus view of only climate scientists.
The simple summary of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group l entitled The Physical Science Basis, is things are getting a lot worst faster than we thought and we now understand much better the link between human activities and increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. These are significant findings, but the real underlying story concerns advances in our understanding of the sensitivity of the global climate system to human impacts. The climate system is super complex and is modelled using the world’s most powerful computers. As we are conducting an unintentional experiment on a highly complex system, it is impossible to predict with any certainty how things are going to unfold.
Here’s what we do know—we have consistently underestimated both the speed and scale of changes to the climate system from human activities and there is a high probability that we are continuing to do so. Epidemiologists were clear at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that replication of viruses in infected people was going to lead to variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and that there was a high probability of more dangerous versions of the virus emerging. Addressing climate change is not unlike tackling the COVID-19 pandemic—we must constantly assume that we are underestimating the scale and pace of change and respond accordingly. In this case, vaccinating everyone as early as possible was the prudent course of action—yet many countries failed to do so and are now watching the Delta variant of the virus run rampant.
The implications of the first of the four IPCC Sixth Assessment Reports to be released this year and in 2022 are clear—we need to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible and as soon as possible.