Key findings of IPCC Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report

global warming

The following are the key findings of the IPCC Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report

Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. The period from 1983 to 2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years in the Northern Hemisphere, where such assessment is possible.

The globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend, show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C2 over the period 1880 to 2012, when multiple independently produced datasets exist

Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90 percent of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010, with only about 1 percent stored in the atmosphere.

Over the period 1992 to 2011, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, likely at a larger rate over 2002 to 2011. Glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide. Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover has continued to decrease in extent.

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since the pre-industrial era have driven large increases in the atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4 and N2O. Between 1750 and 2011, cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions to the atmosphere were 2040 ± 310 GtCO2.

About 40 percent of these emissions have remained in the atmosphere (880 ± 35 GtCO2); the rest was removed from the atmosphere and stored on land (in plants and soils) and in the ocean. The ocean has absorbed about 30 percent of the emitted anthropogenic CO2, causing ocean acidification.

About half of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2011 have occurred in the last 40 years.

Total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase over 1970 to 2010 with larger absolute increases between 2000 and 2010, despite a growing number of climate change mitigation policies.

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 have reached 49 ± 4.5 GtCO2 eq/yr.

3 Emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributed about 78 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase from 1970 to 2010, with a similar percentage contribution for the increase during the period 2000 to 2010.

Globally, economic and population growth continued to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. The contribution of population growth between 2000 and 2010 remained roughly identical to the previous three decades, while the contribution of economic growth has risen sharply.

Increased use of coal has reversed the long‐standing trend of gradual decarbonization (i.e., reducing the carbon intensity of energy) of the world’s energy supply.

In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans. Impacts are due to observed climate change, irrespective of its cause, indicating the sensitivity of natural and human systems to changing climate.

Evidence of observed climate-change impacts is strongest and most comprehensive for natural systems. In many regions, changing precipitation or melting snow and ice are altering hydrological systems, affecting water resources in terms of quantity and quality .

Many terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances, and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change.

Some impacts on human systems have also been attributed to climate change, with a major or minor contribution of climate change distinguishable from other influences. Assessment of many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops shows that negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts.

Some impacts of ocean acidification on marine organisms have been attributed to human influence.

Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950. Some of these changes have been linked to human influences, including a decrease in cold temperature extremes, an increase in warm temperature extremes, an increase in extreme high sea levels and an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events in a number of regions.

It is very likely that the number of cold days and nights has decreased and the number of warm days and nights has increased on the global scale. It is likely that the frequency of heat waves has increased in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia.

It is very likely that human influence has contributed to the observed global scale changes in the frequency and intensity of daily temperature extremes since the mid-20th century.

It is likely that human influence has more than doubled the probability of occurrence of heat waves in some locations.

Surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions.

The overall risks of future climate change impacts can be reduced by limiting the rate and magnitude of climate change, including ocean acidification.

A large fraction of species face increased extinction risk due to climate change during and beyond the 21st century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors.

Most plant species cannot naturally shift their geographical ranges sufficiently fast to keep up with current and high projected rates of climate change in most landscapes; most small mammals and freshwater molluscs will not be able to keep up at the rates projected under RCP4.5 and above in flat landscapes in this century .

Future risk is indicated to be high by the observation that natural global climate change at rates lower than current anthropogenic climate change caused significant ecosystem shifts and species extinctions during the past millions of years.

Marine organisms will face progressively lower oxygen levels and high rates and magnitudes of ocean acidification, with associated risks exacerbated by rising ocean temperature extremes. Coral reefs and polar ecosystems are highly vulnerable.

In urban areas, climate change is projected to increase risks for people, assets, economies and ecosystems, including risks from heat stress, storms and extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, air pollution, drought, water scarcity, sea-level rise, and storm surges.

global warming

Rural areas are expected to experience major impacts on water availability and supply, food security, infrastructure, and agricultural incomes, including shifts in the production areas of food and non-food crops around the world.

Climate change is projected to increase displacement of people. Populations that lack the resources for planned migration experience higher exposure to extreme weather events, particularly in developing countries with low income.

Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.

Effective decision making to limit climate change and its effects can be informed by a wide range of analytical approaches for evaluating expected risks and benefits, recognizing the importance of governance, ethical dimensions, equity, value judgments, economic assessments and diverse perceptions and responses to risk and uncertainty

Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally.

In most scenarios without additional mitigation efforts, warming is more likely than not to exceed 4°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. The risks associated with temperatures at or above 4°C include substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on common human activities, and limited potential for adaptation in some cases.

Some risks of climate change, such as risks to unique and threatened systems and risks associated with extreme weather events, are moderate to high at temperatures 1°C to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades can substantially reduce risks of climate change by limiting warming in the second half of the 21st century and beyond. Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond.

Limiting risks across reasons for concern would imply a limit for cumulative emissions of CO2. Such a limit would require that global net emissions of CO2 eventually decrease to zero and would constrain annual emissions over the next few decades.

Adaptation can reduce the risks of climate change impacts, but there are limits to its effectiveness, especially with greater magnitudes and rates of climate change. Taking a longer-term perspective, in the context of sustainable development, increases the likelihood that more immediate adaptation actions will also enhance future options and preparedness.

Greater rates and magnitude of climate change increase the likelihood of exceeding adaptation limits. Limits to adaptation emerge from the interaction among climate change and biophysical and/or socioeconomic constraints.

Further, poor planning or implementation, overemphasizing short-term outcomes, or failing to sufficiently anticipate consequences, can result in maladaptation, increasing the vulnerability or exposure of the target group in the future or the vulnerability of other people, places, or sectors.

Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, global emissions growth is expected to persist, driven by growth in global population and economic activities.

Global mean surface temperature increases in 2100 in baseline scenarios – those without additional mitigation – range from 3.7 to 4.8°C above the average for 1850-1900 for a median climate response. They range from 2.5°C to 7.8°C when including climate uncertainty.

Vulnerability to climate change, GHG emissions, and the capacity for adaptation and mitigation are strongly influenced by livelihoods, lifestyles, behavior and culture.

Also, the social acceptability and/or effectiveness of climate policies are influenced by the extent to which they incentivize or depend on regionally appropriate changes in lifestyles or behaviours. {4.1}

Adaptation experience is accumulating across regions in the public and private sectors and within communities. There is increasing recognition of the value of social, institutional, and ecosystem-based measures and of the extent of constraints to adaptation.

Adaptation options exist in all sectors, but their context for implementation and potential to reduce climate-related risks differs across sectors and regions. Some adaptation responses involve significant co-benefits, synergies and trade-offs. Increasing climate change will increase challenges for many adaptation options.

Source: IPCC website