Climate risks and impacts are projected to increase with every increment of global warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest Synthesis Report. However, humanity still has an opportunity to prevent the worst of these by drastically reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promoting climate-resilient development.
The new report, which wraps up the IPCC’s massive Sixth Assessment Report cycle, sums up the latest climate science compiled by over 700 experts. It details how climate impacts are already being felt around the world and outlines the irreparable damage that continued GHG emissions will have on natural and human systems. It also serves as a climate action roadmap for governments, financial institutions, and businesses.
Climate risks are on the rise
Many of the report’s findings on climate risks have been relayed in earlier publications, but they bear repeating. Specifically, the report makes clear that climate change is already driving temperature and weather extremes that are disrupting ecosystems and impacting human energy, transportation, and sanitation systems. These impacts are also crippling urban and rural infrastructure, upsetting the flow of goods and services, and inflicting economic losses.
Furthermore, climate impacts on some ecosystems may be nearly impossible to reverse because of melting glaciers and permafrost thaws, among other changes. If certain warming ‘tipping points’ are breached, irreversible changes could take place that permanently harm the biosphere and the human systems that operate within it.
With every bit of additional warming, the report adds that losses and damages will increase as a result of intensifying climate risks. These include more severe and frequent heat waves, droughts, tropical cyclones, and coastal flooding events.
IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said the catalog of potential disasters included in the Synthesis Report “underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action.”
A climate action ‘how-to’ guide
The Synthesis Report makes clear what actions governments, financial institutions, and businesses have to take to stave off the worst climate impacts. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres went so far as to call it “a how-to guide to defuse the climate time-bomb.”
First and foremost, the report says there is an urgent need for global climate resilient development action. This means integrating emissions reduction and climate adaptation into every facet of human development. Private sector engagement with governments and civil society is cited as a key enabler of climate resilient development along with the effective mobilization of financial resources.
This kind of development is supported when governments, civil society, and the private sector make choices that “prioritize risk reduction” and when “decision-making processes, finance and actions are integrated across governance levels, sectors, and timeframes.”
The Synthesis Report also emphasizes the importance of climate adaptation. Effective adaptation measures reduce losses from climate impacts, like extreme weather events. The authors note that while adaptation planning and implementation have improved, major gaps remain — partly due to insufficient public and private funding. They also warn that climate impacts may erode the financial resources available to certain countries, further limiting their ability to adapt.
The importance of deep, rapid, and sustained emissions reductions is emphasized in the report, too. Without this, climate losses and damages will spiral higher and may cancel out the benefits of increased adaptation, the authors write. The drastic actions required to bring emissions down also “imply large and sometimes disruptive changes,” according to the report.
However, these effects can be softened with the right macroeconomic policies, regulatory reforms, and improved access to financial resources. Helpfully, the Synthesis Report highlights many different ways to advance emissions reductions, along with their estimated costs and effectiveness out to the year 2030.
Takeaways for businesses
The Synthesis Report underlines that climate change is a systemic risk, which threatens every aspect of human economic, social, and political systems. In the words of António Guterres, it also serves as a “clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe.”
Businesses that want to survive and thrive in a world transformed by climate change should internalize the findings of the Synthesis Report. This includes embracing climate resilient development — in other words, integrating climate into every aspect of their strategies and decision-making processes.
Organizations of all sizes may also consider ramping up their investment in climate adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC’s clear signal on the importance of these measures should help unlock public sector funding for them and encourage governments to ramp up climate policymaking. Businesses can benefit from these tailwinds by co-investing alongside governments. This way, they can contribute to efforts that lower their climate risk exposure while participating in the upside of new climate opportunities.
How Manifest Climate can help
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