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What the latest IPCC science says about climate change

COP27 delegates will draw on studies from the UN climate science agency to make decisions about future energy plans.

At the COP27 conference in Egypt, delegates will draw on decades of scientific research published by the UN climate science agency to influence decisions about future energy plans and global warming trajectories.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces reports approximately every five years that represent a global scientific consensus on climate change, its causes and its impact. Last year’s report addressed the main drivers of global warming and the core elements of climate science.

This was followed by two major reports this year: one in February addressing how the world will need to adapt to climate impacts, from rising sea levels to declining wildlife, and another in April on ways to “mitigate” or control emissions that cause global warming.

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Here are some of the key takeaways from those reports:

the science report

  • Last year’s report on the physical basis of climate change pulled no punches, stating unequivocally that humans are to blame for rising temperatures.
  • He also warned that climate change was already dangerously close to spiraling out of control.
  • Weather extremes that were once rare are becoming more common, with some regions more vulnerable than others.
  • For the first time, the report’s authors called for urgent action to curb methane. Until that time, the IPCC had focused solely on carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas.
  • With time running out, the authors said it was worth looking at the benefits and drawbacks of geoengineering or large-scale interventions to change the climate, such as injecting particles into the atmosphere to block solar radiation.
  • The report warned the world’s nations, including the wealthy, that everyone should start preparing for climate impacts and adapt to a warmer world.
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adaptation report

  • News of the Russian invasion of Ukraine overshadowed the release in February of a seminal report on how the world should prepare for a warmer reality.
  • With climate change already fueling extreme weather around the world, the report urged rich and poor countries alike to adapt to impacts, including more frequent heat waves, stronger storms and higher sea levels.
  • The report made it clear that different regions face different risks and impacts, and offered localized projections on what to expect.
  • Millions of people will face poverty and food insecurity for years to come as climate change affects crops and water supplies and threatens to disrupt trade and labor markets.
  • The bleak outlook for the world’s poor revived calls for a “loss and damage” fund through which rich nations would compensate poor countries for the costs incurred in dealing with climate-driven disasters, a key demand of vulnerable countries ahead of the COP27 talks.

The mitigation report

  • It’s “now or never,” a report co-chair said in releasing findings showing only drastic emissions cuts in coming decades would keep warming from spiraling out of control.
  • The report revealed how various emissions scenarios would likely translate to higher temperatures in the future.
  • Cities are a big part of the emissions problem, he said, but also an important source of hope and positive solutions.
  • The energy transition towards renewable sources and clean burning fuels is proceeding too slowly.
  • The report also urged strong climate action in agriculture, where farming methods and better forest protection could help curb emissions.
  • He warned that climate change threatens economic growth and, for the first time, highlighted the need to act at the individual level, calling on governments to pass policies to change consumption and transport habits to encourage less waste and more efficiency.
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