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U.N. releases blistering assessment on the state of climate change

Denise Chow and Helena Skinner

Climate change is changing Earth in ways that are “unprecedented” in thousands — and in some cases, hundreds of thousands — of years, according to a blistering report released by the United Nations on Monday (09.08.2021) .

The sobering assessment also found that some changes that are already playing out, such as warming oceans and rising sea levels, are “irreversible for centuries to millennia.”

The report is the most comprehensive assessment from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 2013 and provides the strongest case yet for human-caused global warming, saying it’s “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”

The report also found that climate change is intensifying, occurring at an accelerated pace and is already affecting every region of the planet.

“It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group I, said in a statement.

The IPCC, established in the late 1980s, consists of thousands of scientists across 195 member governments who pore over the most recent published and peer-reviewed research on global warming and compile the findings into a report on the current state of the climate. The assessment, which includes a look at the future risks and impacts of climate change, typically represents consensus within the scientific community. More than 230 authors contributed to the latest report.

The assessment comes less than three months before world leaders are set to convene from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland, for the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Conference. Countries are expected to set forth ambitious targets to reduce emissions by 2030, and the IPCC’s findings will likely feature prominently in the discussions.

The report states that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have caused global warming at a rate not seen in at least the past 2,000 years. It’s estimated that human-caused climate change is responsible for approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming since 1850-1900, the earliest period with reliable measurements of global surface temperatures, the authors wrote.

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Chandana Sesath Jayakody

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