Published today, the report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the first part of a review of current scientific knowledge about how the world is warming due to human activity.
Drawing on more than 14,000 scientific papers, the latest report warns global temperatures, which could soon rise 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, are leading to an increase in extreme weather events and driving sea-level rises.
Richard Black, a senior associate at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “Coming just before Cop26, this report is a massive wake-up call to all those governments that have not yet put forward realistic plans to cut emissions over the next decade.
“It will show that choices made now have a big effect on our future - leading to a runaway world of wild weather impacts and incalculable risks at one end, and at the other a future where climate change is constrained within manageable bounds.”
The report is the first such global assessment since 2013, when scientists found that global warming was “unequivocal” and human influence on the climate was clear, with the majority of warming since the 1950s extremely likely to be down to human activity.
It comes as global temperatures have climbed to 1.2C above pre-industrial levels and increasingly extreme weather - from record heatwaves and wildfires to downpours and devastating flooding - hits countries around the world.
However, there have been warnings that many countries have not brought forward new action plans for cutting their emissions and globally, action pledged is not enough to limit warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels, let alone the tougher 1.5C target.
Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK chief scientist, said: “Over the past decades, scientists have done a terrific job of warning about the impacts of the climate crisis, and world leaders have done a terrible job of listening.
“This year, this has to change. We don’t need more pledges, commitments and targets - we need real action right here right now to cut planet-heating emissions as fast as possible, phase out fossil fuels, transform our food system and deliver more cash to the countries worst hit by the climate crisis.”
The UN’s climate change conference, Cop26, will begin in Glasgow in October and ahead of the event, its president, Alok Sharma, has warned that the world is now on a knife edge to prevent global warming having an even greater impact on the planet.
He told The Guardian newspaper: “You’re seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record,.
“We can’t afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years - this is the moment.
“I don’t think we’re out of time but I think we’re getting dangerously close to when we might be out of time.
“We will see (from the IPCC report) a very, very clear warning that unless we act now, we will unfortunately be out of time.
“Every fraction of a degree rise makes a difference and that’s why countries have to act now.
“We’re seeing the impacts across the world - in the UK or the terrible flooding we’ve seen across Europe and China, or forest fires, the record temperatures that we’ve seen in North America.
“Every day you will see a new high being recorded in one way or another across the world.”
The Cop26 climate talks, which will see world leaders converge on Glasgow, are due to take place in the autumn from October 31 to November 12.
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