IPCC Sixth Assessment Report – JDX Summary

“This year’s IPCC report needs to mark a turning point for corporate entities. The information is there for us, and we need to understand it to plan our next steps. We should all be dedicated to a continuous journey of change where accuracy and excellence is part of every step. Toni Storie has summarised the report in the hope that it helps to shed light for anyone who has not yet understood the impact of the report’s findings and the challenges we are against.”

Rebecca Sparrow, Head of ESG, JDX

Having a clear understanding of the most up-to-date scientific reports is vital to effectively enact and engage with Green & Sustainable Finance initiatives. With the most recent IPCC Sixth Assessment Report making headlines, this blog seeks to highlight the key takeaways the report makes.

What is the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was created to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as put forward adaptation and mitigation options.

On the 9th of August, the IPCC published its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). This report is an extension of the previous assessment released in 2013 and incorporates new evidence on the physical science basis of climate change. It discusses the current state of the climate, possible climate futures and how limiting our influence may impact these. A further two reports are expected to be released in February and March next year to address climate impacts, adaptation and mitigation.

The current state of the climate

For the first time, the AR6 reports with absolute certainty that human activity has contributed to climate change through warming the atmosphere, ocean and land.

Widespread and rapid changes have occurred including a rise in global surface temperature, an average of 1.09°C higher in 2011– 2020 than 1850–1900. This has increased since the 5th assessment (AR5), primarily due to further warming since 2012 as the rate of our emissions continue to accelerate with our use of fossil fuels and growing industrial processes. We have also now seen global sea levels increase by 0.20m between 1901 and 2018, with the rate of increase growing significantly since 2016.

The report goes further to emphasise the unprecedented nature of these changes, stating that there is now high confidence that global surface temperature has climbed faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over at least the last 2000 years, and that the global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900 than over any preceding century in at least the last 3000 years.

AR6 also notes how we are seeing increasing evidence of human-induced climate change through many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. With changes in the climate system becoming larger in the face of global warming, the data in the report shows that human influence has increased the chance of compound extreme events such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts and tropical cyclones.

Possible climate futures

The main takeaways of the report are the outlining of 5 possible future scenarios centred around levels of continuing emissions and how those are predicted to impact our future climate.

Under all future emissions scenarios, global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in imminent decades. In the intermediate emissions scenario, average global surface temperature in the late 21st century is expected to have increased by 2.1°C-3.5°C and in the highest emissions scenario, as much as 5.7°C. To put this into context, global surface temperature reaching 2.5°C higher than 1850 levels has not been seen for over 3 million years.

With rising global temperatures come extreme weather events. The data in the report suggests that for every additional 0.5°C of global warming, the intensity and frequency of hot extremes, including heatwaves and heavy precipitation will notably increase. It goes on to warn that even with 1.5°C of global warming, we run the risk of experiencing weather events that are unprecedented in our records.

Only under the very low emissions scenario, reaching net zero emissions by 2050 and net negative thereafter, it is predicted that the global temperature will begin to decline to below the 1.5 threshold towards the end of the 21st century. With many changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level now thought to be irreversible for millennia, in the words of secretary-general of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report is “a code red for humanity”.

Limiting future climate change

There is a chance for us to reduce the future effects of Climate Change. The report does predict that should we achieve global net negative CO2 emissions (large-scale removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) and sustain these levels, the global surface temperature increase would start to noticeably decline within around 20 years. However, this requires urgent action.

Understanding our own impact on the climate is vital, but encouraging change within our own firm and wider industry is of upmost importance to support the change that is now required at a macro level. The financial sector is integral in supporting the mobilisation of investments needed for climate mitigation and adaptation. However further frameworks need to be in place for this support to be effective, such as increased incentives for investment and further regulation on transparent reporting. Increasing accountability would encourage businesses to have well thought, effective plans to achieve their climate goals and also ensure awareness of the impact that our outputs and relationships have on the planet.

The journey of Green and Sustainable Finance is only in its early stages and responding to the climate crisis requires collective action from all countries, cities, economies, businesses and individuals. Whilst presenting us with a dire picture of our current climate and its possible scenarios, the report solidifies the relationship between CO₂ and global temperature, both now and in the future. We have already seen that change is possible: the fall in emissions linked to COVID-19 reduction measures led to detectible effects on air pollution. The next step is to ensure sustainable reductions long-term. 

How can we help?

JDX can support you in your journey towards a more sustainable, greener future. If you would like to speak to our teams about how we can help, please reach out to Rebecca Sparrow.