On August 9th, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their sixth assessment report. This report represents a major advance in climate knowledge in the eight years since their last report was released in 2013. The report expresses unprecedented levels of confidence in human influence on climate change at regional scales, and it has narrowed the uncertainty around possible outcomes since the previous report. It is now considered very unlikely that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would lead to less than 2 degrees C of warming.
The IPCC now say that they are “highly confident” that our emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols have contributed to extreme heat, precipitation, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones. They are less certain about our contribution to windstorms.
The new IPCC report raises awareness of how climate change has become more than just a story of a warmer and drier future, but also one where climate extremes will be major disruptors to the status quo.
Planning for the impact of climate change should not solely be based on a gradual change in conditions, but rather a changing climate punctuated by weather events with profound implications.
For example, from looking at the newest CMIP6 precipitation and temperature forecast data, which contains five scenarios out to 2100, all of which are now available in Gro, it is clear that intense flooding, changes in monsoon season, as well as prolonged drought will challenge the ways we have traditionally done things as we move into a period for which we have no historical analog to fall back on.
And the urgency is greater than we once thought. The IPCC’s estimate of the amount of global warming that has already occurred has increased from 0.85 to 1.1 degrees C since the previous report, due mainly to the record-shattering warm years of the past decade. This means we are only 0.4 degrees C from the Paris climate agreement target of 1.5 degrees C, a level that will be reached by 2040 even in the most optimistic scenarios.
Future outcomes depend on the degree to which we choose to emit greenhouse gases. The report includes a wider range of emissions scenarios compared with previous versions and reflects our improved understanding of the importance of non-CO2 gases such as methane.
On the optimistic side, there is the SSP1-1.9 scenario in which the global mean temperature increase is limited to 1.5 degrees. However, this scenario relies on an amount of negative emissions which the report itself (in the technical section) acknowledges is likely unrealistic in practice. On the other side is the SSP5-8.5 scenario which reaches 5.7 degrees of warming by the end of this century. This scenario represents a significant upheaval for global production and societal well-being.
And we know from the data that this impact will not be distributed equally across the globe. There will be no winners in climate change, but most certainly there will be those that experience exceptional loss.
Indeed, that change has already begun. In the past year alone we have witnessed flooding and drought as well as other extreme weather events. And so this week’s discussions of our impact on our planet should leave us all asking what we can do to build resilience while limiting our exposure to climate risk. Whether it be on a personal or professional level, the scenarios used by the IPCC illustrate how much we risk by not taking action now.
The good news is that we have many tools at our disposal today that would reduce our level of exposure to the impacts of climate change. AI platforms like Gro have the ability to help transform risk profiles by identifying areas of vulnerability and opportunities for resilience.
We have been working with institutions and businesses across multiple sectors to find new and innovative ways to improve outcomes for organizations exposed to climate change. And we have the data to quantify any future climate vulnerability faced by their people, assets, and supply chains.
In addition to making the new, higher-resolution IPCC climate forecast scenario data readily accessible for analysis, Gro has deployed AI models based on our unique combination of climate science and machine learning expertise such as the Gro Drought Index to provide further actionable insights into climate risk.
We wonder, what will the world achieve by the time of the next IPCC report? Will we take this warning and begin to mitigate and adapt or will we continue with business as usual? We see this report as an opportunity to transform how we do business. In calling for us to limit our emissions, the IPCC is outlining what can be done to limit damage beyond what we are already witnessing.