What is the synthesis report?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its fourth and final report today, reviewing and bringing together all the global knowledge contained in the previous 3 sections published in 2021 and 2022 – we are on the cusp of irretrievable climate breakdown and must take action now.
As a synthesis report, this report integrates and brings together all the main conclusions into a shorter format to make the information more accessible. The next IPCC report is not scheduled until 2030, a date by which global emissions must be halved, compared with 2010 levels, to help limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, making this report all the more necessary and fundamental. This will be the blueprint which governments will use to divest from fossil fuels and invest significantly in renewable energy.
UN Secretary General, António Guterres, warned in advance of the report’s publication that:
“We are nearing the point of no return, of overshooting the internationally agreed limit of 1.5°C of global warming. The facts are not in question. Our actions are. We are at the tip of a tipping point. But it is not too late.”
Dr Hoseung Lee, the chair of the IPCC commented during the launch of the synthesis report, that this report was the “end of an extraordinary process”, and that this report would serve as ”the resource for policy makers at a critical moment”. He pointed out that the report offered both hope and a warning – that what we are currently doing is “insufficient to tackle climate change”. He said “We are walking when we should be sprinting”. On the other hand, he highlighted climate resilient development and concluded that the report provided the hope that we needed “deep, rapid and sustained cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors”. He viewed that this report was a call for climate action: “It calls on all of us – to do, what is in our capacity, to make a difference.”
What does the scientific evidence demonstrate?
The synthesis report reminds us of the starkly observed evidence that, “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”. Roughly half of the world’s population are at high risk of the impacts of climate change: “Approximately 3.3–3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change.” These “adverse impacts from human-caused climate change will continue to intensify”, but the extent to which this happens depends on the changes we make both now and in the near future.
The report acknowledges that there is a gap between pledges made by countries and the potential for a temperature ‘overshoot’.
“A substantial ‘emissions gap’ exists between global GHG emissions in 2030 associated with the implementation of NDCs announced prior to COP26 and those associated with modelled mitigation pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C. This would make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century.
“Global modelled mitigation pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot or limit warming to 2°C assuming immediate action imply deep global GHG emissions reductions this decade.”
The report directly references fossil fuel subsidies and the potential impact that the removal of these could have:
“Removing fossil fuel subsidies would reduce emissions and yield benefits such as improved public revenue, macroeconomic and sustainability performance.”
“Every increment of global warming will intensify multiple and concurrent hazards.”
Expert response to the synthesis report
Professor Julia Steinberger, a lead author for the IPCC Sixth Assessment report, told Yorkshire Bylines, that:
“The warnings are extremely stark. We know that the climate trajectory is extremely clear.”
She praised the ‘rock solidity’ of the climate science produced over all the reports and emphasised that although this report had “Nothing new in it”, that there were some positive signs. Steinberger commented that it was good that there was a direct mention of fossil fuels and their responsibility. She also pointed out that methods of reducing energy demands in terms of mitigation could be more prominent in the coming years. She urged though that climate policy had to be “holistic and integrated and comprehensive”, otherwise there was a danger of ‘maladaptation’ of policy further down the line. Steinberger also highlighted that she was pleased that climate justice and elements of equity and inclusion were now more prominent and that ‘loss and damage’ was now a less contentious area.
Prof Saleemul Huq, director at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, told Yorkshire Bylines that in his view the IPCC AR6 synthesis report reiterates the message that:
“We have already entered the era of Loss and Damage from human induced climate change. Actions to prevent even worse impacts are still possible, but the time is rapidly running out.”
Our final warning
António Guterres commented today that:
“This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts- everything, everywhere, all at once.”
He continued, “The climate time bomb is ticking. But today’s IPCC report is a how-to-guide to defuse the climate time bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity”.
The IPCC itself concluded that the implementation of this synthesis report could deliver a liveable future for all. They highlighted that the methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were available now. It is not too late to act on the threat multiplier of climate change. To give up climate action and to give into climate despair is not the message of this synthesis report. It states bluntly that:
“Deep, rapid and sustained mitigation and accelerated implementation of adaptation actions in this decade would reduce projected losses and damages for humans and ecosystems (very high confidence), and deliver many co-benefits, especially for air quality and health (high confidence).”
We are at the climate crossroads. Which path we choose is up to us.