On February 28th the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, released one of its regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. It’s a hugely important report, known as the Sixth Assessment Report, or AR6. The last one, AR5, came out ‘way back in 2014.
On February 24th, four days before AR6 was announced, Russia attacked Ukraine. Which is easy for me to remember since it was my birthday.
Given the nature of the U.S. media system, it was inevitable that the war story would drown out the climate story. That’s tragic, because Climate Disruption should be the lead story in every day’s news.
In that spirit, this issue of the Notes focuses exclusively on the 6th IPCC Assessment Report. It’s a superficial look – the full Report runs to nearly 3,700 pages! – but I’ve tried to highlight the most surprising and/or illuminating parts. I’ve even included a Reader’s Guide to ensure that you don’t miss what I consider to be a couple of the main points.
I couldn’t help but notice that, on the bottom of virtually every page of the new Report appears the warning: “Do Not Cite, Quote, or Distribute.” So, Shhh! Don’t tell anyone where you heard this.
As always, if you want to download a printable PDF version of this issue of Nygaard Notes, just click HERE.
#1: The Evidence Is Unequivocal
On the release of Part II of the 2022 Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations on February 28th, one of the authors, Hans-Otto Pörtner, said this:
“The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”
#2 A Grave and Mounting Threat
Hoesung Lee is the Chair of the IPCC, and here I offer two statements from him on February 28th. First he said,
“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction. It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”
#3 Half Measures Are No Longer an Option
Hoesung Lee again, underlining the point:
“This report recognizes the interdependence of climate, biodiversity and people and integrates natural, social and economic sciences more strongly than earlier IPCC assessments. It emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.”
#4 It’s Now or Never
In the press release accompanying the April 4th publication of the Assessment Report’s Summary for Policymakers, co-author Jim Skea said:
“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5̊C (2.7̊F). Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
Here are a few facts about AR6, the Sixth Assessment Report the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations, due to be completed this autumn. In the eight years since the last Report we (that is, humans) have learned a lot.
The report is the result of work by 278 authors from 65 countries: 36 coordinating lead authors; 163 lead authors; 38 review editors, and; 354 contributing authors.
It features over 18,000 cited references and 59,212 expert and government review comments.
The Report tells us that “Thousands of people from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC. For the assessment reports, experts volunteer their time as IPCC authors to assess the thousands of scientific papers published each year to provide a comprehensive summary of what is known about the drivers of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and how adaptation and mitigation can reduce those risks.
AR6 has three working groups, the second of which released its report on April 4. The concluding Synthesis Report, which synthesizes and integrates the findings of all three Working Groups, is due in autumn 2022. The Synthesis Report basically provides an overview of the state of current knowledge on the science of climate change.
AR6 often states that they make a claim with “High Confidence” or “Very High Confidence.” High Confidence means that there is at least an 8-out-of-10 chance that it is correct. Very High Confidence gives it at least a 9-out-of-10 chance.
When the AR6 authors say that a certain event or outcome is “Virtually Certain” to occur, they mean that there is a 99 percent chance that the event will occur or the outcome will be seen. If they say it is “Extremely Likely,” they are saying there is a 95 percent chance.
For the most part, in this issue of Nygaard Notes I only report on claims made with “high” or “very high” confidence. ◆
This issue of Nygaard Notes is composed mostly of direct quotations from the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The quotations were chosen carefully, and I realized as I went along that I was reading something very important in this 3,700-word document that was put together by 278 authors from 65 nations around the world. I noticed two things in particular that I encourage you to notice as well.
The first thing is that the phenomenon that they call Climate Change, and that I call Climate Disruption, can only be understood to the degree to which the readers are able to “think systems.” In the Introduction to the first section—“Summary for Policymakers”—the authors remind us that “climate change” is not only about “climate.” They say it plainly: “This report recognizes the interdependence of climate, ecosystems and biodiversity, and human societies and integrates knowledge more strongly across the natural, ecological, social and economic sciences than earlier IPCC assessments.” In essence, the whole Report is a lesson in systems thinking. So try to notice that as you read.
The second thing: In the last issue of the Notes I talked about hearing the voices of the voiceless, saying that it is past time to tune in to the hardest-to-hear voices, the voices of those for whom the current system does not work well, the voices of the dispossessed, the marginalized, the alienated. I said that those voices are louder now than they have been for a long time.
The last “Quote” of the Week was a sneak preview of this issue, quoting from the current IPCC report when they said that “This report recognises the value of diverse forms of knowledge such as scientific, as well as Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge in understanding and evaluating climate adaptation processes and actions to reduce risks from human-induced climate change.”
So, as you read this report by authors from countries rich and poor, North and South, small and large, of all colors, the second thing to notice is how often this report – which originated outside of the United States – calls on us to hear voices of people who in this country tend to be categorized as Other. And then ignored.
The more we learn to hear the voices of the Other, and the more that Systems Thinking becomes our default thought style, the more we will be able to understand what it means to disrupt the earth’s climate. And how truly grave a crisis we are facing. ◆
Here are just a few excerpts from the February press release that accompanied the release of the 6th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
“The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5̊C (2.7̊F). Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements.
“Increased heatwaves, droughts and floods are already exceeding plants’ and animals’ tolerance thresholds, driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These weather extremes are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, on Small Islands and in the Arctic. To avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity and infrastructure, ambitious, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. So far, progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks, the new report finds. These gaps are largest among lower-income populations.
“‘Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change and provide life-critical services such as food and clean water’, said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Hans-Otto Pörtner. ‘By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30 to 50 per cent of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store carbon, and we can accelerate progress towards sustainable development, but adequate finance and political support are essential.’
“‘Our assessment clearly shows that tackling all these different challenges involves everyone – governments, the private sector, civil society – working together to prioritize risk reduction, as well as equity and justice, in decision-making and investment,’ said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts.
“There is increasing evidence of adaptation that has caused unintended consequences, for example destroying nature, putting peoples’ lives at risk or increasing greenhouse gas emissions. This can be avoided by involving everyone in planning, attention to equity and justice, and drawing on Indigenous and local knowledge.”
More on Local and Indigenous Knowledge in a future Nygaard Notes.
This selection was difficult to put together, because there are so MANY highlights in this report that I feel guilty about leaving out so much. But the highlights that I do include indicate that there are hundreds of brilliant people who are working tirelessly to help us understand what we are doing to disrupt our planet’s climate, and who are grappling with the immense challenge of figuring out what to do about it. We all need to be thinking about this, and this brief selection of excerpts is just one entry point. I hope the following offers something you may not have thought about.
Chapter 1 is called “Point of Departure and Key Concepts,” and in it we read: “Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge (IK and LK) can provide important understanding for acting effectively on climate risk and can help diversify knowledge that may enrich adaptation policy and practice. Indigenous Peoples have been faced with adaptation challenges for centuries and have developed strategies for resilience in changing environments that can enrich and strengthen current and future adaptation efforts. Valuing IK and LK is also important for recognition, a key component of climate justice.”
Chapter 2 addresses “Terrestrial and Freshwater Ecosystems and their Services,” where we read: “Terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and species are often less degraded in lands managed by Indigenous Peoples and local communities than in other lands. Including indigenous and local institutions is a key element in developing successful adaptation strategies. Indigenous and local knowledge contain a wide variety of resource-use practices and ecosystem stewardship strategies that conserve and enhance both wild and domestic biodiversity.”
Chapter 3, on “Oceans and Coastal Ecosystems and their Services,” says “Since previous assessments, new laboratory studies, field observations and process studies, a wider range of model simulations, Indigenous Knowledge, and local knowledge provide increasing evidence on the impacts of climate change on ocean and coastal systems, how human communities are experiencing these impacts, and the potential solutions for ecological and human adaptation.”
Chapter 4 is titled simply “Water.” “There is increasing evidence of observed changes in hydrological cycle on people and ecosystems. A significant share of those impacts is negative and felt disproportionately by already vulnerable communities. Many countries and social groups most threatened by climate change have contributed the least to the problem and do not have the adequate resources to adapt. Water adaptation policies enabled through ethical co-production between holders of Indigenous Knowledge, local knowledge and technical knowledge; through cooperation and coordinated actions among multiple actors, including women and all marginalized groups, at various levels of governance is needed for effective transitions towards Climate Resilient Development.”
Chapter 5 talks about Food: “Food security and climate change have strong gender and equity dimensions. Worldwide, women play a key role in food security, although regional differences exist. Climate change impacts vary among diverse social groups depending on age, ethnicity, gender, wealth, and class. Climate extremes have immediate and long-term impacts on livelihoods of poor and vulnerable communities, contributing to greater risks of food insecurity that can be a stress multiplier for internal and external migration. Empowering women and rights-based approaches to decision-making can create synergies among household food security, adaptation, and mitigation.”
Chapter 6 focuses on Cities: “Evidence from urban and rural settlements is unequivocal; climate impacts are felt disproportionately in urban communities with the most economically and socially marginalized [being] most affected. Vulnerabilities are shaped by drivers of inequality – including gender, class, race, ethnic origin, age, level of ability, sexuality and nonconforming gender orientation – framed by cultural norms, diverse values, and practices. Robust adaptation plans are those developed in inclusive ways. However, few adaptation plans for urban areas and infrastructure are being developed through consultation and coproduction with diverse and marginalized urban communities. The concerns and capacities of marginalised communities are rarely considered in planning.”
Chapter 7: “Health, Wellbeing, and the Changing Structure of Communities.” “With proactive, timely, and effective adaptation, many risks for human health and wellbeing could be reduced and some potentially avoided… Key transformations are needed to facilitate climate resilient development pathways for health, well-being, migration and conflict avoidance. The transformational changes will be more effective if they are responsive to regional, local, and Indigenous Knowledge, and consider the many dimensions of vulnerability, including those that are gender- and age-specific.”
Chapter 8 speaks of Poverty, saying “Adverse impacts of climate change, development deficits and inequality exacerbate each other. Existing vulnerabilities and inequalities intensify with adverse impacts of climate change. These impacts disproportionately affect marginalised groups, amplifying inequalities and undermining sustainable development across all regions. Due to their socio-economic conditions and the broader development context, many poor communities, especially in regions with high levels of vulnerability and inequality, are less resilient to diverse climate impacts.”
Oh, there’s so much more! But that’s all for this issue of Nygaard Notes. Or go on the web and check out the Report for yourself.