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How Will the IPCC's Latest Findings Impact Our Future?

Cover Image for IPCC Sixth Assessment Report

The latest findings of the IPCC 2023 Climate Change Synthesis Report* pose the dire question, ‘Have we run out of time to reduce our CO2 emissions and save our planet?’.

As our readers are aware, our blogs usually focus on identifying the importance of ESG transparency and reporting around compliance and business initiatives. However, the IPCC report has identified final warnings about the consequences of ignoring the impacts of climate change and failing to act on emissions reductions to cool our planet.

We focus on four basic facts in the hope that the urgent need for transition to a carbon-neutral economy will become evident, not just to corporations and businesses, but to any remaining boards and management still considering their ESG strategies and commitments.

1. Increasing Green House Gas Emissions

FACT: In 2022 the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was 417.2 parts per million (ppm). In 2023 the global average is forecast to be 419.2ppm.*

To put this in perspective, in the last 50 years we have added 100ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere and the last time CO2 levels exceeded 400ppm was around 400 million years ago when global temperatures were 2-4C warmer and sea levels were 10-25m higher than today.

According to the IPCC, this means that humans are fast approaching a time when we will cease to have the ability to keep global warming below 1.5C. The question we need to pose is, ‘have we let pass the single most important opportunity to do all that we can to prevent global warming and its devastating impacts?’.

We are faced with a new reality, one in which cutting big emissions won’t be enough to limit global warming. We can’t rely on technologies to capture and store CO2 because they are still emerging and at this stage remain unproven.

Further, a quarter of the Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon than it absorbs due to deforestation and dryer conditions.* So this one-time global carbon-sink is fast transforming into a ‘savannah’ rather than a rainforest, resulting in less carbon being stored on land and more being released into the atmosphere.

2. Record Heat Levels

The resulting record heat levels globally are a result of the increasing CO2 levels.

FACT: 2022 was the sixth-warmest year since records began in 1880 and the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2010.*

3. Melting Ice & Rising Sea Levels

FACT: Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its fifth-lowest maximum on record.*

The loss of Arctic sea ice is due not only to the impact of climate change but also the albedo effect* which is the capacity of the snow and ice to reflect heat. Therefore, as the ice shrinks the white reflective surface is replaced by dark heat-absorbing surfaces, which leads to further loss of sea ice.

FACT: There is now less sea ice surrounding Antarctica than at any time since satellites started measuring it in the late 1970s.*

On February 13, 2023, the US National Snow and Ice Data Center said that coverage is reduced to just 1.91 million sq km (737,000 sq miles).* This is the first time the ice coverage has fallen below two million sq km.

NASA estimates that Antarctica is losing ice mass at a rate of 150 billion tonnes a year*. Antarctica’s melting ice sheets will change global sea levels indefinitely, from ‘centimetres’ to metres. With the loss of the East Antarctic ice sheet comes an estimated 52m rise in sea levels alone.*

4. Thawing Permafrost

Across the northern hemisphere, permafrost is also warming rapidly. The impact is due to the huge amount of greenhouse gases (CO2 and Methane), which are being released into the atmosphere as the permafrost melts.

The amount of stored carbon is estimated to be twice the amount in the atmosphere, with the impact on global warming being extreme.*

What Next?

The most important thing we can do in response to global warming is to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, reduce our emissions and listen to our scientists – before it’s too late. We are already circling the rim and in the blink of an eye could go beyond the point of no return. Years of inaction by our respective governments have contributed to this climactic point in time.

So we need corporations and businesses to take the lead for a cooler, cleaner world with emissions reductions at the core of operational strategies, commitments to targets, transparency around performance, and offsetting “carbon credits” as a final step.

The time is now.


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