As wildfires rage, milestone report expected to deliver ‘starkest warning yet’ on climate crisis


As wildfires rage across southern Europe and parts of the US, the
biggest climate change report in almost a decade is set to deliver the “starkest warning yet” about the crisis facing the planet.

The report from the United Nations’ climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), arrives this morning and is the first worldwide assessment of its kind since 2013.

Back then, 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 caused by human activity.

It is believed that the latest report will send an even stronger message, piling pressure on governments meeting for the COP26 climate talks later this year to take action, with the conference’s president Alok Sharma indicating that the IPCC will issue its “starkest warning yet”.

Mr Sharma, the UK’s climate minister who will preside over COP26 in Glasgow in November, told The Observer the world is getting “dangerously close” to running out of time to avert “catastrophic” climate change.

He has warned that COP26 “has to be the moment we get this right”.

“We will see (from the IPCC report) a very, very clear warning that unless we act now, we will, unfortunately, be out of time,” he added.

More on Climate Change

COP26 president Alok Sharma says 'if we do not take this chance to keep 1.5 degrees alive, it will slip from our grasp'.
COP26 president Alok Sharma has indicated that the IPCC’s report will deliver its ‘starkest warning yet’

The IPCC is expected to say that global temperatures could soon rise 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, which is a limit countries have pledged to try and avoid breaching as part of the Paris Agreement, due to the dangerous consequences it could have on humanity.

A special report from the group in 2018 warned that overshooting the 1.5C limit would mean more extreme weather, greater sea-level rises, and damage to crops, wildlife, and health.

Recent weeks have seen devastating wildfires sweep through southern Europe and California in the US, and just last month several other European countries suffered catastrophic flooding.

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Sky burns orange as Greek fires force evacuations

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‘Ash rain and smoke haze’ in Turkey

At the time, the 2018 report said carbon emissions would need to be cut by 45% by 2030.

It said significant changes would need to be made to transport, how we heat and power our homes, industry, and agriculture to prevent the 1.5C rise.

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Floodwater surges through Chinese subway

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House swept along river in Germany floods

Drawing on more than 14,000 scientific papers, the current review is set to provide the latest knowledge on past and potential future warming, how humans are changing the climate, and how that is leading to more extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

Researchers have spent two weeks talking 195 government representatives through their findings and now the pressure will be on leaders to take more action at COP26.

The report 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 flooding – hits countries around the world.

The wildfires in southern Europe have struck Greece and Turkey, forcing thousands to evacuate their homes, and July’s severe flooding has devastated large parts of Germany and Belgium.

Elsewhere, more than 300 people died after disastrous flooding hit central China and hundreds of deaths were recorded during a heatwave in the US and Canada.

The Dixie Fire is the eighth largest in California's history. Pic AP
The Dixie Fire is the eighth largest in California’s history. Pic: AP
Firefighters have been tackling the blaze for three weeks. Pic AP
Firefighters have been tackling the blaze for three weeks. Pic: AP

The UN’s climate chief, Patricia Espinosa, has warned that many countries are not doing to tackle the climate crisis and many have not brought forward action plans for cutting emissions, which was a key target of what needed to be done before the COP26 summit.

And another leading UN environment figure, Joyce Msuya, warned last month: “The pandemic is a warning from the planet that much worse lies in store unless we change our ways.”

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How to prepare for extreme weather

The IPCC’s report released on Monday, expected at 9am UK time, is the first part of the sixth global assessment of climate science to be conducted since the group’s formation in 1988.

Ahead of its publication, Richard Black, 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.”

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For more than three decades, the IPCC has provided politicians with assessments on the global climate, publishing a series of reports every seven years, as well as special interim reports.

IPCC reports have historically underpinned global climate action and influenced decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Its 2013 assessment that humans had been the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s set the stage for the landmark climate accord known as the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Sky News has launched the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.

The Daily Climate Show is broadcast at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

Hosted by Anna Jones, it follows Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show also highlights solutions to the crisis and how small changes can make a big difference.

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