Ahellish northern summer laced with deadly heat waves, perilous floods, and massive wildfires may be just a preview of coming attractions, according to a blockbuster new assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The assessment lays out how the planet’s air, oceans, and ice are pushing relentlessly into new territory.
Eight years of research from more than 14,000 papers have been telescoped into the exhaustive new report, part of the sixth comprehensive assessment in the IPCC’s 33-year history.
The report finds that Earth is on the doorstep of the much-discussed 1.5°C threshold, more likely than not to be reached by 2040. The hazards of compound impacts – such as heat and drought together – have risen to new prominence since the last assessment, and the risks of cataclysmic tipping points continue to loom.
The panel recently released the Summary for Policymakers from Working Group I, devoted to the foundational physical science of climate change. Still to come over the next few months are new assessments from Working Group II (impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) and Working Group III (mitigation, or how to avert further climate change).
IPCC is one of the most expansive science review efforts in global history. Rather than conducting its own research, the panel evaluates studies by thousands of scientists from around the world. The idea is to gauge which findings represent the most solid guidance needed for policymakers, governments, businesses, and individuals to address climate change. The most startling conclusions from IPCC tend to be contextual: how a range of recent studies fit together into a coherent picture. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the result of a complete IPCC assessment can be more illuminating than any single piece.