IPCC report: much of the climate damage in Europe cannot be prevented

IPCC report: much of the climate damage in Europe cannot be prevented

The new study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides for the first time a breakdown of the consequences of global warming for individual regions of the world. The prospects for Europe are bleak. | from Theresa Chrisman

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has given: At nearly 4,000 pages, it summarizes what researchers around the world have discovered about the state of global warming over the past eight years. With the new observational study, the UN body is sounding the alarm – even louder than ever.

Meanwhile it is not only clear that global warming is “apparently” man-made. But also that climate disaster is only partially preventable.

Even in Europe, every degree makes the situation worse

“Climate change is already affecting all regions of the world and every further degree of global warming will make itself felt everywhere,” says Valerie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of the responsible working group at the IPCC. And this applies to Europe as well.

United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a United Nations body. On behalf of this body, experts from around the world regularly produce survey studies that evaluate and summarize published research results on climate change. The purpose of these IPCC studies is to help politicians make science-based political decisions. Studies show alternatives to action and their possible consequences, but do not reveal any concrete solutions.

According to a new IPCC study, average temperatures across all European countries will rise more rapidly than natural fluctuations. Heat waves should be more intense and more frequent, with fewer cold days and fewer frost days in winter. Sea levels will continue to rise on almost all European coasts.

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All of this should happen, even if emissions scenarios for greenhouse gases are expected. No matter how much CO2 is left: some climate damage can no longer be prevented.

it didn’t have to go that far

The reason is historical global warming: Human activities in Germany have increased the average temperature by 1.6 °C since the end of the 19th century. The same trend is evident across Europe and around the world, as are the climate consequences of this change. It didn’t come that far, says meteorologist and IPCC study co-author Johannes Kwass.

“The IPCC has existed since the first United Nations climate conference in 1992. Nearly 30 years after the first summary predictions, we can now prove that generations of climate scientists at the time were right with their predictions.”

Temperature Anomalies from 1881 to 2020: 2018 and 2020 were the warmest years ever since weather records began in Germany. (Source: German Weather Service (DWD))

Kvass blames the politics of past decades for the fact that current forecasts are so dangerous. “If the federal government and other governments at that time had acted as advised by colleagues at the time, with well-founded evidence, and had already been decided in these first climate talks, we would have been doing much more climate damage. Could have avoided it. Now we have to deal with it.”

Some of the consequences of climate change still have to be stopped

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference is scheduled for November, this time in Glasgow, Scotland. The focus is on forecasts from the IPCC study. And the narrow time window that still remains open to prevent a full-blown climate catastrophe.

“The good news is that we can still slow irreversible changes and completely prevent other effects of climate change,” says IPCC climate researcher Maison-Delmotte. To do so, however, would have to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions “quickly, strongly and over the long term.”

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Fewer floods due to less greenhouse gases

What a difference it could make in Europe, for example, reflects the IPCC’s predictions on heavy rain events: with the exception of the Mediterranean region, floods due to very heavy rains are expected to increase across Europe – but only if Global warming is greater than 1.5. degree Celsius.

Eiffel flood damage: In Europe, heavy rains caused by climate change are expected to increase flooding, the IPCC has warned.  (Source: Imago Images / C. Hardt)Eiffel flood damage: In Europe, heavy rains caused by climate change are expected to increase flooding, the IPCC has warned. (Source: C. Hardt / Imago Images)

The IPCC also specifies similar threshold values ​​for severe climate change impacts in other regions of the world. This coincides with the international agreement from the Paris Climate Agreement, with which the world community has committed itself to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

However, if things continue as before, there is a risk of an increase of 3 degrees Celsius in average temperature according to the IPCC. The decisive limit of 1.5 degrees will then be reached by 2030. According to calculations, the current climate promises made by the international community still resulted in a 2.1 degree increase in temperature.

German climate policy with room for improvement

In the Federal Environment Ministry, Minister Svenja Schulz (SPD) referred to the German climate goals after the IPCC study was published. Schulz said Germany is already making a significant contribution to climate protection. Now more and more other states should also follow this. However, a “Climate Action Tracker” analysis by three major climate research institutes has already shown that German climate plans are ahead of the 1.5-degree target promised by Paris.

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Patrick Gretchen, director of the Agora Energiewende think tank, sees the federal government as a liability. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it abundantly clear that stopping global warming requires more courageous and swift action. We still have a chance to avert worse events.”

IPCC wants to remain politically neutral

For Germany, this means placing climate policy at the center of all political activity during but after the election campaign. “The point is to quickly come up with a conclusive solution to the task that the study once again presents us with. For this, the federal government of the future needs an urgent program within the first 100 days that keeps climate protection on track.” so that the obligations of the Paris Agreements are complied with,” Gretchen said.

Despite its impressive warnings and calls for political decision-makers to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the IPCC is reluctant to come up with concrete solutions. While think tanks and NGOs prefer to make detailed policy proposals in their studies, a gap remains in the IPCC studies. The IPCC wants to remain politically neutral, repeatedly stresses the committee.

The most dramatic call at the press conference on the study came from another source. “Climate change is here now, but so are we. And if we don’t do anything, who will?” The rhetorical question of Inger Andersen, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme, was certainly also for those who will meet at the UN climate summit in Glasgow in autumn.


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