WASHINGTON—Following a virtual approval session, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the summary of the first part of its Sixth Assessment Report, providing policymakers with an updated accounting of the latest science on the physical manifestations and trajectory of climate change. This report is the result of several years of hard work by scientists from around the world drawing on an exhaustive foundation of peer-reviewed scientific literature and a process that demands intensive scrutiny and consensus.
In addition to the usual climate indicators past IPCC reports have covered, the latest iteration also includes a scenario that aims to reflect the primary goal of the Paris climate agreement—limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also offers new insight on the science attributing extreme weather events to climate change, the state of global ice sheets, and how climate change impacts vary by geographic region.
Below is a statement by Dr. Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
“The latest IPCC report offers a wealth of scientific information that should be elevated and heeded. Additionally, it provides a deeper understanding of sobering climate tipping points, advances in climate attribution science, and a reporting of regional climate change. While this report underscores the urgent need for climate action, prior IPCC reports and countless other studies, as well as our lived experience, have already given us more than enough evidence to know that we’re in the midst of a crisis brought to us largely by the fossil fuel industry and their political allies.
“In recent months alone, we’ve seen extreme precipitation and flooding devastate communities in China, Germany, and Indonesia; deadly extreme heat and massive wildfires in Canada, Greece, Turkey, and the Western United States; damaging tropical storms slam into Caribbean nations and India; and widespread famine in Madagascar. And if you think this is bad, remember that what we’re seeing today is just the opening salvo. Climate change is here, it’s dangerous, even deadly, and yet a giant gulf remains between what the science shows is needed to address this crisis and the actions taken by policymakers. The continued dithering is no longer about the lack of scientific evidence, but rather directly tied to a lack of political will and the overwhelming influence of the fossil fuel industry. The scientists keep showing up time and time again; now it’s time for policymakers to do the same.”
Below is a statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.
“For far too long, policymakers have placed their short-term political interests and the greed of corporations ahead of the needs of their constituents. After spending decades raising the alarm about the overwhelming threats posed by unchecked climate change, our organization is beyond concerned; we’re heartbroken to see worsening, grossly inequitable impacts that could’ve been avoided harm people and critical ecosystems. Now, frontline communities around the world are bearing witness to the devastation in their midst. We’re also alarmed by the prospect of what lies ahead—especially if nations fail to act—and angry that our policymakers have thus far reneged on their responsibilities. We urge politicians in the United States and around the globe to take stock of this sobering report and set aside their longstanding predilection for incrementalism.
“In the United States, Congress has a unique and powerful moment to move forward legislation that could be a big down payment on climate action. When considering the enormity of the climate impacts the nation is already experiencing, as well as the tremendous health and economic benefits of a clean energy economy, the choice for policymakers should be obvious.
“In November, countries are slated to gather at the annual U.N. climate talks to put forth enhanced national commitments to reduce their global warming emissions. This cannot be another lost opportunity. Richer nations—whose emissions are the predominant cause of global warming impacts being experienced around the world—must take responsibility for making rapid and deep emissions cuts and provide financial support so developing countries can make a low-carbon transition too. The IPCC report also makes clear that not all places are being affected by the climate crisis at the same rate. Therefore, it’s imperative that ahead of the climate conference, richer nations significantly ramp up funding and resources to both acknowledge the losses suffered by those bearing the brunt of climate impacts and aid in their ability to adapt. This report is yet another reminder from the scientific community of the profound, often irreversible, changes to our planet caused by rising heat-trapping emissions. It’s way past time for policymakers to translate this stark warning into action.”
In addition to Drs. Dahl and Cleetus, UCS also has the following experts available to comment on the report.
- Dr. Astrid Caldas, a senior climate scientist at UCS. She is available for interviews in English, Portuguese and Spanish.
- Dr. Juan Declet-Barreto, a senior social scientist for climate vulnerability at UCS. He is available for interviews in English and Spanish.
- Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, the director of climate science and a senior climate scientist at UCS. She is also a co-author of the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment. Read Dr. Ekwurzel’s latest blog on the five flags to look out for following the release of the IPCC’s latest report.
- Dr. Peter Frumhoff, the director of science and policy and chief climate scientist at UCS. He was a lead author on the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
- Dr. Rachel Licker, a senior climate scientist at UCS.