On August 9th, Working Group I (WG1) of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which presents the most up-to-date scientific data and understanding of climate change and its impacts, along with the Summary for Policymakers (SPM). Revised for the first time since the AR5 eight years ago, the report is a consolidation of a substantial amount of research and data by more than 200 scientists and experts from 66 countries.
Reflecting the latest scientific findings and knowledge in the midst of extreme climatic phenomena throughout the world, the report states “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” Compared to previous reports, the connection between human-induced climate change and extreme weather is stated much more conclusively, and it has become clear that urgent countermeasures are necessary to achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep the global temperature rise below 2 ℃ or preferably under 1.5 ℃ compared to before the Industrial Revolution.
The report indicates widespread and rapid changes are occurring in the atmosphere, ocean and cryosphere, and an unprecedented average temperature rise is observed all over the world. In Japan as well, extreme weather events such as heat waves, heavy rains, and droughts are occurring at a scale and intensity never before experienced and are having a significant impact on our lives. If we continue to emit greenhouse gases (GHG) and use up the remaining carbon budget, it will be impossible to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 °C .
The report insists that in order to achieve this goal, it is a necessity to stop emitting CO2 completely, achieving net zero by around 2050 – and dramatically reduce emissions of other GHGs such as methane.
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the Working Group’s report was nothing less than “a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable”. He emphasized the importance of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow this upcoming November.
At COP26, each country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) will be presented and discussed. However, the level of emission reductions that can be achieved through nations’ currently submitted NDCs are not enough to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 °C (degrees Celsius) . The Japanese government’s GHG emission reduction target for fiscal year 2030 is a 46% reduction compared to fiscal year 2013 levels, but it still plans to maintain coal-fired power generation, one of the biggest causes of global warming, despite the life-threatening extreme weather we are increasingly facing.
As a developed country, Japan must take responsibility for reducing GHG emissions and completely phase out coal-fired power generation by 2030.
AR6 Climate Change 2021:The Physical Science Basis (Link)
IPCC: AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2022 (Link)
IPCC: Headline Statements from the Summary for Policymakers (PDF)
UN News: IPCC report: ‘Code red’ for human driven global heating, warns UN chief (Link)