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Major UN report stresses the need for urgent action on climate change

28 February 2022

Plymouth Marine Laboratory science contributes to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
Sun shining through a glacier

Climate change resulting from human activity is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released today.

The Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group II report, “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” was approved on Sunday, February 27 2022, by 195 member governments of the IPCC and is the second instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed this year.

According to the report, urgent action is required to deal with the increasing risks from climate change. It highlights that biodiversity loss, and degradation, damages to and transformation of ecosystems are already key risks for every region due to past global warming and will continue to escalate with every increment of global warming. Furthermore, climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage.

Some of the key observations from the report:
  • Climate change is impacting nature and people more intensely, more frequently and over a wider geographical area than previously thought.
  • It has already caused substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems
  • Projected climate change, combined with non-climatic drivers, will cause loss and degradation of much of the world’s forests, coral reefs and low-lying coastal wetlands
  • Many natural systems are already near or past the hard limits of their natural adaptation capacity. These include a number of warm water coral reefs, coastal wetlands, rainforests, polar and mountain ecosystems
  • Beyond 2040, and depending on the level of global warming, climate change will lead to numerous risks to natural and human systems
  • The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation action
  • Global warming, reaching 1.5°C in the near-term, would cause unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans
  • If global warming transiently exceeds 1.5°C in the coming decades or later, then many human and natural systems will face additional severe risks, compared to remaining below 1.5°C
  • Safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems is fundamental to climate resilient development, in light of the threats climate change poses to them and their roles in adaptation and mitigation
  • The global trend of urbanisation also offers a critical opportunity in the near-term, to advance climate resilient development with coastal cities and settlements playing an especially important role

The IPCC is the UN body assessing the science related to climate and PML scientists have been playing key roles in the development of the IPCC Assessment Reports and Special Reports for many years, such as Lead and Review Authors. Dr Marie-Fanny Racault is one of the IPCC AR6 WGII report’s Lead Authors for Chapter 3: “Ocean and coastal ecosystems and their services” and for the Summary for Policy Makers and Technical Summary. She undertook the vast majority of her work for the IPCC report whilst employed by PML and she has recently taken on the role of a PML Honorary Fellow after moving to the University of East-Anglia (UK).

Dr Racault said:

“The latest WGII report shows a wider range of impacts are caused by human-induced climate change. In the ocean, these impacts have been observed in the distribution of marine species shifting northwards and advances in the timing of their seasonal activities, with associated impacts on the services that these ecosystems provide."

"Looking into the future, ocean and coastal ecosystems offer many adaptation options to reduce climate risks, particularly ecosystem-based adaptation and nature-based solutions. But the window of opportunity is narrowing with every increase in warming, meaning that adaption together with mitigation actions are urgent”.

For more information visit: IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

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