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Media Statement: IPCC AR6 Working Group II report paints vivid picture of climate emergency’s real-world impacts

Second installment of Sixth Assessment Report maps out repercussions for humans & nature of climate trends exposed by last summer’s landmark UN study

Extreme heat
Extreme Heat Heat poses a growing risk in our cities and communities. © NOAA

Today, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – one of the world’s most influential and respected scientific bodies – published the condensed ‘summary for policymakers’ edition of part two of its three-pronged Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

A companion to last August’s Working Group I (WGI) report on the physical science of climate change, the AR6 Working Group II (WGII) report collates findings from hundreds of scientists across 195 countries to reframe climate megatrends in terms of impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability of ecosystems, human society, cities, settlements, services, infrastructure, and industries.  

Designed to inform policymakers, nations, businesses, and communities with the most credible science currently available on how human-driven climate change is already reshaping life on Earth as generations have known it, WGII makes clear the connection between achieving progress against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and supporting adaptation at a local community level. It also highlights the importance of social justice and Indigenous knowledge in shaping our response to this existential threat.

Commenting on the publication of the IPCC AR6 WGII report, Professor Katharine Hayhoe – Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy – said:

“IPCC reports rarely make for comfortable reading – and this latest one is the hardest-hitting yet. But that’s the point: without this level of rigorously peer-reviewed, comprehensive synthesis, how can we expect our leaders to understand what’s at stake and react with the urgency and nonpartisan policy collaboration required to implement the solutions needed?

“Climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier. Take almost anything we already know to be wrong with the world – from hunger, poverty, and lack of access to basic sanitation and healthcare in low-income countries, to the treatment of Indigenous People and racial injustices in high-income countries – and the climate emergency is making it harder to solve.

“Loss of biodiversity, stresses on agricultural productivity, human health risks – the themes highlighted by WGII are not new. We’ve been tracking most of them for years now. What is emerging is the indisputable evidence for how climate change is acting to compound and conjoin these challenges at a rate humankind is currently struggling to keep pace with, and how these impacts often hit the most vulnerable first.

“Crucially, however, WGII also makes it clear that now is not the time to abandon hope. Hope is not the guarantee of a better future: it’s the knowledge that our actions matter. And today, they matter more than ever. From how we produce our food and plan our cities, to how we protect our most valuable ecosystems and work to secure the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities – the IPCC makes clear there is potential to adapt our economies and societies and make them more resilient to these emerging threats. This can be accomplished by working in collaboration with nature, while we also strive to drive down emissions.

“It’s crucial that we take this can-do message from the report. What we absolutely must not do is allow these findings to fuel a sense of fatalism during such a make-or-break decade. As the IPCC concluded in its 1.5C report, ‘Every year matters and every choice matters.’ And, I would add, every positive action matters.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.