Prof. Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general, has likened the rapid intensification in global warming to an athlete using performance enhance substances, in that the increase in harmful emissions, particularly CO2 , is causing the atmosphere to perform even more effectively.
The analogy was made ahead of a meeting to consider the second instalment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, which integrates natural, social and economic sciences, and reflects on the increasing importance of urgent and immediate action to address climate risks.
“At the moment we have the Winter Olympic Games in China where we have high performing athletes,” said Taalas. “If you give them doping substances, then they perform even more effectively. That is what we have done to the atmosphere. We have been doping the atmosphere. Our doping has been the use of fossil fuels and that has already led to an increase in disasters and their human and economic impact and biospheric impact,” he said.
Prepared by IPCC’s Working Group II, the report builds on the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report released in August 2021 and shows that climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying.
“From these previous reports, the message from the physics community is very clear,” adds Taalas. “What we have seen happening so far and what is expected to happen during the coming decades and centuries, especially when it comes to melting of glaciers and sea level rise which is unfortunately going to last much longer than earlier estimated. The impacts of climate change are already very visible. We have seen them happening worldwide, especially vulnerable areas of the world include Africa, Southern Asia and the Pacific islands.”
The WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are co-sponsors of the IPCC. Last year, the WMO published a report on disaster statistics for the past 50 years that demonstrated that 4.5 billion people had experienced a major weather-related disaster during the past 20 years. There had been a drop in casualties thanks to improved early warning services but there had been a dramatic increases in economic losses.
Inger Andersen, UNEP executive secretary, said, “The work of the IPCC underpins climate action. Acknowledging the science is only the first step. The growth in climate impacts is far outpacing our efforts to adapt to them.”
The Working Group II session will take place virtually from Feb 14-25, supported by the German government. The approval plenary is a process of drafting and review that happens with all IPCC reports. Experts from all over the world provided over 16,000 comments on the first-order draft of the report. Experts and governments provided more than 40,000 comments on the second draft of the full report and the first draft of the Summary for Policymakers. The final government review of the Summary for Policymakers received about 5,700 comments. This reports references over 34,000 scientific papers.
Hoesung Lee, IPC chair, said, “This is the final phase of a strict and meticulous review process of the report assessing impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change, integrated across scientific disciplines inclusive of diverse forms of knowledge. Over the next two weeks, governments and scientists together will scrutinize the Summary for Policymakers line by line. Collectively, they will deliver a sound, tested and robust Summary. Its findings will be critically important for policymakers around the world.”
The Working Group III contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report and the concluding Synthesis Report are scheduled to be finalized in early April and September 2022 respectively.