“The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years,” said the report issued overnight Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The report’s authors assert that, given the available evidence, they have “high confidence” that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were higher in 2019 than at any point in a least 2 million years while the global surface temperature has “increased faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over at least the last 2000 years”.
The report was compiled by 234 experts from 66 countries and is the most comprehensive to be released by the UN panel since 2013.
“The alarm bells are deafening and the evidence is irrefutable,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said upon the report’s release.
“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet. If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe.”
In the 2015 Paris climate accord, countries set a target of staying below 2C and preferably to 1.5C, above pre-industrial levels.
The IPCC report suggested even limiting the temperature rise to those levels would require urgent, and drastic, action.
Reaction from around the world has been swift, with politicians warning of last chances and urging the international community to agree further commitments on carbon emissions.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the report should serve as “a wake-up call” for world leaders as they prepare to gather in Glasgow later this year for the next summit on the climate crisis.
“Today’s report makes for sobering reading and it is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet,” Johnson said in a statement.
Germany’s Environment Minister Svenja Schulze warned that time was running out to save the planet: “The planet is in mortal danger and with it, its inhabitants,” she said.
“We are also experiencing this here in Germany: catastrophic flooding after heavy rain in July, persistent drought in recent years,” Schulze said.
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg said the report contained “no real surprises”, however.
“It confirms what we already know from thousands previous studies and reports – that we are in an emergency. It’s a solid (but cautious) summary of the current best available science,” she posted on social media.
“It is up to us to be brave and take decisions based on the scientific evidence provided in these reports. We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis,” Thunberg concluded.Jump to next article