The human-made climate crisis is accelerating rapidly, whether the world is ready or not, says a new U.N. report.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) newest report makes it clear — climate change is already a crisis,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on August 9 to mark the first of four parts of the report’s release.
The IPCC’s 2021 report was written by 234 scientists from around the world who analyzed more than 14,000 studies to come to conclusions about the future of our planet.
The most urgent finding: Our climate has been rapidly changing because of human influence since 1850. This human influence has already begun to alter our planet in drastic, irreversible ways that will continue to get worse unless we quickly reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
The report’s findings underscore the climate’s trajectory. Fires, extreme heat and drought are part of the picture for our inevitable future. They will continue to be more intense and widespread unless the world takes collective action soon.
The report’s scientists discovered that, specifically:
- Since the start of our records, each decade has been warmer than the previous ones.
- Global temperatures have risen about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the 1850-1900 average.
- Temperatures have increased faster in the last 50 years than any 20-year period in at least the last 2,000 years.
- Arctic sea ice is at its lowest level in more than 150 years.
- Sea levels are rising faster than at any time in at least the last 3,000 years.
- Glaciers around the world are declining at a rate unprecedented in at least 2,000 years.
The world is also barreling toward global warming temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next few decades.
By limiting warming, we can head off the worst changes in our climate.
- Reduce the number of people who will suffer in life-threatening heat waves.
- Limit the amount that sea levels will rise over the next hundreds to thousands of years.
- Lessen the intensity of droughts in drying regions.
- Minimize the number of animal and plant species that will face extinction.
- Prevent the die-off of coral reefs around the world.
To begin to mitigate any of these issues, countries around the world must come together to address the climate crisis as one.
“As countries prepare for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, this report is a stark reminder that we must let science drive us to action,” Blinken said. “This moment requires world leaders, the private sector, and individuals to act together with urgency and do everything it takes to protect our planet and our future in this decade and beyond.”