The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just released its latest summary report on the state of our climate. This is the fourth and final instalment of the sixth assessment report (AR6) led by the world’s leading climate scientists. The next IPCC report won’t come out until 2030, so this is essentially the last window we have to hold global heating to 1.5 degrees before the IPCC’s next assessment.
This blog includes summarised content from a post in The Guardian.
The IPCC report’s first three sections covers the physical science of the climate crisis, including:
- Observations and projections of global heating
- The impacts of the climate crisis and how to adapt to them, and
- Ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions
The synthesis report, released 20th March, yet again warns governments that now is the time to act to secure a liveable blue planet. We need stronger, deeper and faster climate action to avert further climate harm to our communities and ecosystems like the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.
Are there new key findings?
There is no new science in the synthesis report, just a recap of the main findings of the previous publications.
What does this mean for our oceans?
- Burning fossil fuels is driving global heating, marine heatwaves and triggering mass bleaching events. The cost of climate inaction is being felt from the Great Barrier Reef to the Great Southern Reef.
- The Great Barrier Reef has experienced four mass bleaching events since 2016 caused by climate change.
- The waters off south-eastern Australia are warming 3-4 times the global average and changing ecosystems faster than science can keep up with, while our Great Southern Reef’s kelp forests are struggling.
- Oceans are struggling to absorb the amount of excess CO2 being pumped into the air, which is increasing the acidity of the ocean and depleting oxygen levels in the water.
- Climate change is responsible for more extreme weather events: intense heat waves, heavier rainfall, sea level rise, coral bleaching, and more intense tropical cyclones. This further increases climate risks for local communities and ecosystems, such as our Great Barrier Reef.
What can the Australian government do right now to take action?
- The Australian Government could act immediately by not extending the licence for Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 (PEP 11), which would turn the waters off some of our most iconic beaches from Sydney to Newcastle into an extensive offshore gas field.
- Reject the approval of new fossil fuel schemes, especially in our seas where accidents can have such devastating impacts.
- The federal government must agree to a strengthened safeguard mechanism that rapidly and genuinely cuts emissions from our biggest climate polluters.
- Stop burning fossil fuels and spur action to a transition rapidly to renewables.
- Embrace the massive economic opportunities of using our natural advantage – abundant sun and wind, cut down our emissions and power the shift to renewable energy.
- Enact all 22 recommendations in the IUCN & UNESCO’s expert Reef Monitoring report, focusing on the highest priority actions first.
If the main findings have already been published, why is this report needed?
Its purpose is to reduce the thousands of pages of science to a shorter format, which is further condensed into a “summary for policymakers”. This IPCC report is supposed to inform the next UN climate summit, Cop28, which will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Dubai from 30 November. There, nations’ progress on cutting greenhouse gas emissions since the Paris climate agreement of 2015 will be assessed. It is certain to find that governments are well off track on their emissions-cutting goals.