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On the 9th of August, the UN Climate Panel released the first part of its new climate report. The report is a comprehensive compilation of the current scientific state of knowledge regarding climate change, including climate models and scenarios.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the report should be considered a red flag for humanity. The risk is clear: within ten years we will pass the Paris Agreement’s goal of a 1.5 degree temperature rise. As before, it is stated that carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels is the main cause and that sea levels are rising. More clearly than ever, the IPCC points out that the increase in extreme weather events such as heat waves and droughts is primarily due to humanity’s impact on the climate.
Mikael Karlsson, associate professor of environmental science and senior lecturer in climate change leadership comments on the report.
Does the report contain anything surprising?
– We have been sure since at least the 1990s that humans affect the climate and that it has serious consequences so the main features are well known. Since then research has become considerably clearer on what is happening, where it is happening and how fast it is happening. What is perhaps most surprising is how clear the climate panel is now about the increase in extreme weather. It moves what many thought were future consequences to the here and now, says Mikael Karlsson, associate professor of environmental science at Uppsala University.
Which areas of the world are most vulnerable?
– Probably the biggest problem with climate change is that it is getting drier in the world where drought is already a big problem and where many people live in deep poverty. This will be developed in the second part of the report in February next year. But today’s report shows extensive climate impact in our part of the world as well. In the far north of the globe the warming will be greater than average and we will see more extreme weather in the future. This may be in the form of fires and floods that can cause great damage, says Mikael Karlsson, associate professor of environmental science at Uppsala University.
Is it too late to reverse the trend?
– Absolutely not. Admittedly some trends, such as sea level rise, will continue for centuries, but the pace can be slowed down considerably and many other catastrophic scenarios can be avoided altogether. It is still quite possible to meet the goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. The third part of the report, which will be published in March next year, shows how this can be done. But we already know today that many solutions are available and our research shows that even in the short term it can be profitable to change direction, says Mikael Karlsson, associate professor of environmental science at Uppsala University.
What happens now? How should society act, how do we get there and how can I as an individual act?
– The solution catalog is thick and more and more politicians, business leaders and individuals are taking responsibility and trying to reduce emissions. By all accounts, that work will accelerate in the near future. Within the EU a number of measures were proposed this summer and later this autumn there will be a global climate summit in Glasgow. Climate work is also intensifying in Sweden, although much remains to be done. As an individual you can do a lot – eat a little more green, cycle and walk a little more often, opting first for a train and bus are simple measures. The best part is that many measures also give us better health and finances, says Mikael Karlsson, associate professor of environmental science at Uppsala University.