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Landmark Climate Report Is Bleak

Comprehensive UN study says things are guaranteed to get worse
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2021 6:51 AM CDT
Landmark Climate Report Is Bleak
A man runs as fire burns trees in Kirinthos village on the island of Evia, north of Athens, Greece, last week.   (AP Photo/Thodoris Nikolaou)

(Newser) – The new week begins with grim reading from a landmark UN report about the state of the planet. The 3,000-plus page assessment of the climate concludes that while things are bad now—witness the extreme weather unfolding around the globe—they are certain to get worse in the coming decade. However, the authors say it's possible to stave off the most dire scenarios, essentially a planet unrecognizable from the one we know today, though only if nations take immediate steps to start reining in greenhouse gas emissions. Coverage:

  • The report: Read it here. Produced by the International Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it was written by more than 230 scientists and based on more than 14,000 studies. It's a "code red for humanity," says the UN, per the AP.
  • New rate: Extreme heat waves that used to hit once every 50 years now happen once a decade, say the authors, per Reuters. And that rate will almost certainly get worse. The same general trend applies to droughts and heavy rains.
  • The warming: The world has warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius since the 19th century, and the authors say it is almost certainly too late to avoid reaching the Paris accord threshold of 1.5 degrees by 2040, reports the New York Times. At that mark, the world becomes an even more dangerous place, with more than 1 billion at risk from frequent heat waves.
  • Bleak quotes: “We can expect a significant jump in extreme weather over the next 20 or 30 years,” says Piers Forster of the University of Leeds, one of the authors. Another co-author, Linda Mearns of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, tells the AP: “It’s just guaranteed that it’s going to get worse. I don’t see any area that is safe.”

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  • Longer term: The report lays out five scenarios, and in three of them, the world surpasses 2 degrees Celsius warming by mid-century. On these tracks, it's possible the mark could surpass 3 or even 4 degrees. In the rosiest scenario, an immediate shift away from fossil fuels would enable the rise to level off at about 1.5 degrees.
  • One forecast: A rise of 2 degrees "could trigger the inexorable collapse of the Greenland ice sheet and more than six feet of sea-level rise that could swamp coastal communities," per the Washington Post. "Coral reefs would virtually disappear."
  • Blame: The report says it's "unequivocal" that human behavior has warmed the planet. As for current events: “Extreme events, heat waves, droughts, heavy precipitation: When we see these things in the news, they really are a result of climate change and the science is really able to detect that,” says co-author Jessica Tierney, of the University of Arizona, per Quartz. “You can always get an extreme flood or drought by chance, but now we can show that the chances of some of these events happening would have been almost nil.”
(Read more climate change stories.)

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