"Today's IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a code red for humanity." - Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General.
The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published today has made it absolutely clear that human activities are causing climate change and that every part of our planet is already being affected. From its opening words, it states with confidence that:
"It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land."
The report has been put together by hundreds of scientists across the world. Even more importantly, it has been signed off by all of the governments on the planet.
As a species, we have already caused our planet to warm by more than 1C in the last 150 years and within a couple of decades, we will cross over the 1.5C warming limit proposed by 2015's Paris agreement.
There is already more carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere than there has been for at least 2 million years. It's also 2 million years since our oceans have been so acidic. Temperatures are rising faster than they have done, probably for at least 100,000 years. The last five years have been the hottest on record since 1850. Sea levels are rising almost three times as fast now as they did in 1901-1971.
The glimmer of hope in the report is that we can still limit temperature rises to 1.5C, but only just, and only if we take drastic action now. The report suggests that 1.5C of warming will be reached by 2040, but if we don't act fast enough, it will come much sooner. Whilst 1.5C is in some ways an arbitrary number, we know that the effects of climate change become progressively worse beyond this point, with 2C being much worse and 3 to 4C being catastrophic.
We already face increased instances of extreme weather: more storms, floods, droughts and heat waves are already inevitable. But taking action now can make a massive difference to the impacts that will be felt across the planet.
The last IPCC report, produced in 2013-14, had significant influence on the Paris agreement. Today's report is far clearer and more confident about what will happen to our planet if politicians don't choose to act at the upcoming COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. It really is the last chance we have to prevent global temperature increases above 1.5C, and it will require strong action from governments across the world to ensure that we don't create an even bigger crisis for ourselves in the years to come.
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, says: “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet. If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as the report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.”