What Are The Key Takeaways From The IPCC AR6 Report?

by: Caroline Kelleher | Analyst, Sustainability, Policy & Advisory | September 23, 2021

Amidst a year devastated by extreme weather, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered its sixth assessment report (AR6). The AR6 comes in time to be fresh on the minds of the climate leaders meeting this week at Climate Week NYC to discuss fulfilling and increasing the commitments made by businesses. It will be instrumental in driving conversations by governments ahead of COP26 in November. While the conclusions of AR6 remain consistent with the IPCC’s last major assessment in 2014, there is a window of opportunity to make the necessary changes to avoid a catastrophic future.

A 1.5C Warmer World Is On The Horizon

Restricting temperature rise to no more than 1.5C to 2C is thought to be the range that will minimize the likelihood of reaching critical environmental tipping points. When the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, world leaders set the goal to limit temperature rise to 2C, with a preferred goal of a 1.5C increase. AR6 shows that 1.5C of warming is expected to occur by the mid-2030s, and without drastic change taken today, experts predict that roughly 3C of warming will occur by the end of the century.  

Source: IPCC report

Unprecedented Warming Leads To Unprecedented Changes

Compared to pre-industrial levels, temperatures are now around 1.1C warmer, heating the climate to a 100,000 year high. As a result, the planet is undergoing unprecedented changes in human history – carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is the highest in 2 million years; sea level is rising at the fastest rate in 3000 years; glaciers are retreating at the fastest rate in 2000 years, and arctic sea ice area is at the lowest level in 1000 years.

Source: IPCC report

Attributing Weather Events To Climate Change

Prior to recent advancements, it was virtually impossible to attribute any weather event to climate change. Experts in the field of attribution science can now assess to what extent climate change played a role in the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events. From the heavy rainfall and flooding in western Europe, and extreme heat in western North America this year, experts can now say with certainty that human-driven climate change is causing more frequent and severe weather events.

The Most Peer-Reviewed Science In History

Over 14 000 scientific papers were assessed by 234 AR6 authors from 65 countries to create a comprehensive summary of the drivers, impacts, risks, and mitigation strategies of climate change. The report was distributed for review by experts and received over 78 000 comments incorporated into the second draft. The final report was reviewed and approved by all 193 member states from the United Nations.

The Path Forward To Safety And Prosperity

A strong and sustained reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has the potential to rein in climate change, limiting global warming levels to manageable temperatures. Parties must take immediate action: with a decades-long delay to see the results of today’s emission reductions, the next several decades will show the impacts of our actions in the past. Any hope of stabilizing global temperature, improving air quality, and conducting business in the future, depends on the speed that radical changes can be taken today.

Leading A Low-Carbon Future

What does the AR6 mean for the growing number of businesses acting on climate change? Now more than ever, businesses play a critical role in galvanizing efforts to manage climate risk and monetize climate opportunities. From modeling resilience and asset exposure to developing projects at a scale that mitigate emissions and engaging in voluntary mechanisms, the corporate leaders of the 21st century will also be climate leaders. ClimeCo is a pioneer in climate strategy and has supported corporate leaders with climate expertise for over ten years. We are just getting started, and our team is ready to support clients in their transitions towards climate leadership.


About the Author

Caroline Kelleher is an Analyst on ClimeCo’s Sustainability, Policy, and Advisory team, where she advises clients on the development of carbon reduction and sustainability strategies. Caroline holds a Master of Science in Environmental Sustainability from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science in Geoscience from Trinity University.