I’m sure that by now, you’ve read about or at least heard of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) first installment of its sixth assessment report, which was published this week (the rest will be completed in 2022). For those unfamiliar with it, the IPCC is the UN’s body dedicated to assessing the science related to climate change with 195 member countries. Through the IPCC, some of the world’s leading climate experts produce comprehensive reports which try to define our knowledge on climate change, its impacts, and potential risks, all based on existing research (being a neutral party in the discussion). Assessment reports are published every 6 to 7 years (the last report before this one was published in 2014). This new report can be somewhat dense to read, but the message is clear: we have very little time left to make the necessary changes.
So, what are the top seven key messages from the report for us?
- Climate change is happening faster than expected. “Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.”
- Human influence on climate change is unequivocal. “Each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. The likely range of total human-caused global surface temperature increase from 1850–1900 to 2010–2019 is 0.8°C to 1.3°C, with a best estimate of 1.07°C. It is very likely that well-mixed GHGs were the main driver of tropospheric warming since 1979.”
- Deterioration increases speed as temperature rises. “Many changes in the climate system become larger in direct relation to increasing global warming. They include increases in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic Sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.”
- The global water cycle will continue to intensify. “A warmer climate will intensify very wet and very dry weather and climate events and seasons, with implications for flooding or drought.“
- Carbon sinks become less effective as emissions increase (and thus warming accelerates). “While natural land and ocean carbon sinks are projected to take up, in absolute terms, a progressively larger amount of CO2 under higher compared to lower CO2 emissions scenarios, they become less effective, that is, the proportion of emissions taken up by land and ocean decrease with increasing cumulative CO2 emissions. This is projected to result in a higher proportion of emitted CO2 remaining in the atmosphere.”
- Many negative impacts from warming, especially those related to the sea and ice sheets, are irreversible for a long time. “Past GHG emissions since 1750 have committed the global ocean to future warming (high confidence). Mountain and polar glaciers are committed to continue melting for decades or centuries (very high confidence). Loss of permafrost carbon following permafrost thaw is irreversible at centennial timescales (high confidence). Continued ice loss over the 21st century is virtually certain for the Greenland Ice Sheet and likely for the Antarctic Ice Sheet. It is virtually certain that global mean sea level will continue to rise over the 21st century.”
- But we can still slow this down if we really commit to decrease emissions. “Scenarios with very low or low GHG emissions lead within years to discernible effects on greenhouse gas and aerosol concentrations, and air quality, relative to high and very high GHG emissions scenarios.”
Why this is very relevant for your business?
Striving to stay at the 1.5°C threshold matters because if we surpass this scenario, everything about climate change will become exponentially extreme and virtually irreversible. To achieve this, regulatory changes and transition impacts are foreseeable for your operations. If we don’t achieve it, physical impacts to your assets and operations, as well as your supply chain will materialize.
Things you can do to help:
- Participate in CDP and TCFD assessments to identify the risks and opportunities your business has in the face of climate change.
- Become a UNGC Signatory and/or try to map your contributions to de United Nation’s SDGs to understand the ways in which your business can have a positive impact.
- Take this seriously. The climate threat is too large for anyone to try to solve on their own, but without the support from investors and corporations, there will be no solution. It is important to understand that this will affect everyone, and that setting an example as a company can lead to further support in other organizations. Our understanding of how far-reaching climate change is has increased exponentially in recent years. Data is out there for anyone who wants evidence. Are you onboard?
In sum, whether onboard or not, it is very likely that carbon-intensive activities are going to become increasingly expensive due to new taxes, regulations, or quotas. Thus, independent of your ESG view, it is likely going to make business sense to de-carbonize as much as possible your business activities.
I hope you found this interesting. As usual, if there is anything we can help you with, please let us know.
CEO, Miranda ESG
Contacts at Miranda Partners