Climate Action

Climate change: 5 charts from the IPCC report that show why every increment of warming matters

Climate change: The warmer the planet gets, the more pronounced the changes will become.

Climate change: The warmer the planet gets, the more pronounced the changes will become. Image: Unsplash/Li-An Lim

Charlotte Edmond
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Climate Crisis

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  • The world is already feeling the effects of climate change – and the risks predicted will actually have a bigger impact at lower temperatures than we previously thought, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
  • Its assessment is that we are not doing nearly enough to cut emissions and limit temperatures, and we’re way off course to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
  • These 5 charts lay out some of the report’s findings, and the consequences of not making widespread, deep and rapid emissions cuts.

Climate change has already had a substantial impact on humans and the planet. And every increment of global warming we cause will have a profound effect on future generations.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the climate crisis makes it clear that the actions we take over the next few years will have a direct impact on our ability to create a liveable and sustainable planet.

The adaptation option we have available to us now will become less feasible and effective the warmer the world gets. And so the window is rapidly closing if we are to limit warming to below 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement.

These charts explain why that mission is so important.

1. Our choices right now affect how we and future generations will experience the world

From 2011-2020, greenhouse gas emissions caused temperatures to rise 1.1°C above levels seen in 1850-1900. And global surface temperatures have increased faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period in the last 2,000 years.

Unless we take action now to limit global warming to below 1.5°C, current and future generations will end up living in a far hotter and profoundly different world to the one we currently know.

How we respond to climate change will determine the world that future generations have to live in.
How we respond to climate change will determine the world that future generations have to live in. Image: IPCC.

2. Every increment of global warming is making climate extremes more noticeable

The warmer the planet gets, the more pronounced the changes will become. Average climate and weather extremes will shift further and further away from what we currently recognize as “normal”, causing widespread disruption and damage to populations, livelihoods and the environment.

climate change. A graphic showing how with global warming regional changes in climate and extremes have become more widespread and pronounced.
Our hottest days will get even hotter, and droughts and floods will become more extreme and commonplace. Image: IPCC.
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3. The impacts of climate change will be widespread and are already being felt

Failing to act on climate change will have serious consequences in multiple ways. We will lose large numbers of animal species because they will be unable to adapt to the new environment they face, and ecosystems will collapse.

Rising temperatures and humidity will also pose threats to human health and well-being, and risk making some areas unliveable.

And food yields and supplies will all be hit, with crops and animals killed by temperature extremes, droughts and floods.

Climate-related risks dominate the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023, with failure to mitigate climate change perceived as the biggest number risk facing the world over the next 10 years. Natural disasters, extreme weather events, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse are also top concerns.

A lack of action on climate change will lead to widespread species loss, damage to human health and impacts on global food supplies
A lack of action on climate change will lead to widespread species loss, damage to human health and impacts on global food supplies Image: IPCC.

4. More damage will happen at lower temperatures than we previously thought

Assessments of the impacts and risks associated with each given increment of temperature rise have been updated as the world’s scientific understanding improves – and the prognosis is not good. The upshot is that much of the projected fallout from global warming will actually kick in at lower temperatures than we initially anticipated.

These risks will also interact with each other, which could compound the problem and introduce further complexity.

A graphic showing that the risks are increasing with every increment of warming. climate change
Our planet is more at risk from small temperature rises than we previously thought. Image: IPCC.

5. Limiting global warming requires action now

All the ways modelled to limit warming to 1.5°C involve widespread, deep and rapid – if not immediate – cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. But our current trajectory is way off what is required, meaning that temperatures are exceeding targets and timelines are being missed.

Our current implemented targets could see us not only falling short of the Paris Agreement goals, but put us on track for some of the most severe impacts modelled.

Global action on climate change is not nearly enough to limit temperature rises.
Global action on climate change is not nearly enough to limit temperature rises. Image: IPCC.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Climate ActionNature and BiodiversityEnergy Transition
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