IPCC Report confirms world is on the brink of breaching major tipping points, near-term climate action is critical

9 August 2021

Rapid phase out of fossil fuels to reduce emissions drastically within this decade is the only course of action to keep Paris Agreement temperature goal of 1.5°C in sight

Full IPCC WG1 report
Press Conference by IPCC on launch of the report

09 August 2021: The IPCC WG1 Report was published today as part of the first of three reports under the Sixth Assessment Cycle. This report deals with the physical basis of changing climate systems and comes as extreme weather events continue to make headlines around the world.

The report states with certainty that human activity is wrecking the climate system in unprecedented ways, causing, in some instances, irreversible damage. Without urgent and far-reaching climate action, the world is on a razor’s edge with regards to breaching major tipping points. The window of time to prevent warming beyond 1.5°C is rapidly closing.

Implicit in the report is that rising emissions caused by a destructive dependence of fossil fuels is set to worsen climate catastrophes. While this report does not deal with climate impacts and mitigation pathways, it is clear that support for adaptation and loss and damage is critical now more than ever before, especially for vulnerable communities in poor countries who are least equipped to cope with intensifying climate disasters.

With less than three months before COP26, world leaders, particularly those of the largest emitting countries, must confront this latest science. This report must serve as a catalyst to enhance climate targets, phase-out all fossil fuels and increase climate finance.           

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Global Climate & Energy Lead, WWF: “The report is an important moment in the lead-up to COP26 because it is all about certainty – certainty of the scale of the climate crisis and humankind’s role in driving extreme weather events, certainty of how much we have changed the planet, and certainty that things will continue to get worse unless we immediately change course.
“World leaders must use every opportunity, especially the upcoming G20 Summit and COP26, to deliver climate action that responds to the ambition needed to ensure the 1.5˚C goal of the Paris Agreement does not slip out of reach.”

Dr Stephen Cornelius, Chief Adviser on Climate Change & Global lead on the IPCC, WWF: “This is a stark assessment of the frightening future that awaits us if we fail to act. With the world on the brink of irreversible harm, every fraction of a degree of warming matters to limit the dangers of climate change. It is clear that keeping global warming to 1.5°C is hugely challenging and can only be done if urgent action is taken globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect and restore nature.”

Dr Stephan Singer, Senior Adviser, Climate Action Network International:
“Governments must interpret the findings of the latest IPCC report as an alarm bell to phase-out of fossil fuels within this decade. This report must serve as a large nail in the coffin of the fossil fuel industry. The IPCC report today shows we have the highest carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and the highest amounts of marine acidification since at least two million years.”
“Phasing out fossil fuels, massively deploying renewables, investing in energy efficiency and halting ecosystem destruction is the only obvious political action for a liveable planet. This report also implies that extreme weather events will continue at current rates of warming. This means stronger support is needed for adaptation and risk management for vulnerable communities in poorer countries.”  

Dr Kristina Dahl, Senior Climate Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists:
“The latest IPCC report offers a wealth of scientific information that should be elevated and heeded. It provides a deeper understanding of sobering climate tipping points, advances in climate attribution science, and a reporting of regional climate change. While this report underscores the urgent need for climate action, prior IPCC reports and countless other studies, as well as our lived experience, have already given us more than enough evidence to know that we’re in the midst of a crisis brought to us largely by the fossil fuel industry and their political allies. The continued dithering to address climate change is no longer about the lack of scientific evidence, but rather directly tied to a lack of political will.”

Rachel Cleetus, Policy director and Lead Economist, Climate and Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists:
“For far too long, policymakers have placed their short-term political interests and the greed of corporations ahead of the needs of their constituents.
After spending decades raising the alarm about the overwhelming threats posed by unchecked climate change, our organization is beyond concerned; we’re heartbroken to see worsening, grossly inequitable impacts that could’ve been avoided harming people and critical ecosystems. We’re also alarmed by the prospect of what lies ahead—especially if nations fail to act. We urge politicians in the United States and around the globe to take stock of this sobering report and set aside their longstanding predilection for incrementalism.” 

Kaisa Kosonen, Senior Political Advisor, Greenpeace Nordic:
“While governments crawl towards curbing emissions, inch-by-inch, the climate crisis is right now claiming entire communities with wildfires, extreme flooding, and drought. This IPCC report has strengthened the connection between carbon emissions by humans and worsening climate extremes.
“We are not going to let this report be shelved by further inaction. Instead, we’ll be taking it with us to the courts. One only needs to look at the recent court victory secured by civil society groups against Shell to realise how powerful IPCC science can be.”

Li Shuo, Senior Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace East Asia:
“The scientific evidence of climate change and its impact is clear. This summer’s floods have just made it real for China. There is no reason to shy away from urgent action. Stopping the construction of China’s coal-fired power plants will greatly contribute to global climate momentum. Doing so is economically sound and is ultimately in China’s self-interest.”

Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist, Greenpeace UK:
“This is not the first generation of world leaders to be warned by scientists about the gravity of the climate crisis, but they’re the last that can afford to ignore them. The increasing frequency, scale and intensity of climate disasters that have scorched and flooded many parts of the world in recent months is the result of past inaction. Unless world leaders finally start to act on these warnings, things will get much, much worse.” 

Steve Trent, CEO and founder, Environmental Justice Foundation:
​​“The IPCC’s latest report is an important piece of rigorous science, but it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. We know that the climate crisis is here. We know that people are dying, from climate-driven storms, floods, wildfires, heatwaves, drought and famine, around the world. We know that while northern, industrialised nations are also suffering, the greatest impacts of climate breakdown are being felt by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, those who have done the least to contribute to the heating of our planet.
If we do act ambitiously, with a foundation of environmental justice, we will see new jobs, economic revitalization, and reinvigoration of our relationship with the natural world, making us happier and healthier.” 

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy, CAFOD:
“No ifs, no buts, this report is clear it’s an urgent fight to keep below 1.5 degree warming and avoid the destruction that entails, especially for those living in poverty. Prime Minister Johnson, we need you to throw everything at this with less than 100 days to COP26 – we are at a crisis point. 
“We cannot preach to countries with fragile economies and crippling global debt to divest from fossil fuels if we are still investing in oil fields, such as Cambo Sands in the Shetlands, behind closed doors.
Such hypocrisy makes a mockery of Britain on the global stage, and we must reject it if we are to have any semblance of credibility amongst the international community.”  

Sineia do Vale, Environmental Manager, Indigenous Council of Roraima, after years of battling with President Bolsonaro to try and save the Amazon:
“This report sadly tells us nothing that we are not already all too aware of.  We are steering the planet on the course to disaster. Indigenous peoples around the world have felt this environmental crisis but we are resilient because we have strategies – what we need is firm commitments from global leaders to support us so we can continue the fight for our land and lives.
The AR6 WG1 report may paint a bleak picture, but it is vital that we commit to the 1.5°C target under the Paris Agreement, for not just the future of the Amazon, but for all countries and communities. Now is the time for urgent, radical action – not more empty promises.”

Stela Herschmann, Climate and Policy Specialist, Climate Observatory:
“The message from the IPCC is crystal-clear: change course now and brace for more impact. Scientists’ worst predictions are becoming true faster than expected, tipping points are approaching and the only acceptable emissions level is zero.”

Dr Simon Bradshaw, Head of Research, Climate Council of Australia:
“The most important climate science update for almost a decade shows there is a path to avoiding climate catastrophe, but only through immediate, deep and sustained emissions reductions. This may be our final warning.”
“Climate change is already wreaking havoc around the world. Our decisions today will be the difference between a liveable future for today’s young people, and a future that is incompatible with well-functioning human societies.”
“Every choice and every fraction of a degree of avoided warming matters. The right choices will be measured in lives, livelihoods, species and ecosystems saved. Australia, as a major emitter and blessed with unrivalled potential for renewable energy, simply has to step up with a far stronger commitment ahead of COP26.”

Wendel Trio, Director, Climate Action Network Europe: “Arriving at a time when we are witnessing devastating forest fires and floods in Europe, this report must be followed by adequate action which is currently still missing. We call on the EU to step up its efforts for accelerating the transformation towards a climate-neutral continent, as current plans are insufficient to keep the 1.5°C limit agreed in the Paris Agreement within reach by 2030. This report adds further weight to the need for European lawmakers to make the ‘Fit for 55’ climate and legislative package into a set of policies and measures that fit for 1.5°C.”

Nick Mabey, Chief Executive, E3G: “This updated scientific consensus shows all countries are more exposed to higher climate risks than previously thought. The current climate disasters impacting across the world have brought home the vulnerability of even the richest and most powerful countries. At Glasgow, the big polluters need to step up and cut emissions faster as well as giving more help to those unable to protect themselves from climate impacts.”

Catherine Pettengell, Director, Climate Action Network UK:
“The urgency of action could not be more clear. Today the IPCC has issued what could be seen as the final warning. World leaders must listen and must act – both for their own nations to thrive, and in solidarity with those on the front line of the climate crisis.
The window is still open for avoiding the worst impacts and risks, but not be for much longer. Responsibility now sits on the shoulders of all world leaders to deliver at COP26.”

Miriam Talwisa, National Coordinator, Climate Action Network, Uganda:
“Now more than ever, our leaders must redouble efforts to stop the climate crisis. As communities in Kasese- Southwestern parts of Uganda continue to suffer under ever increasing, intense and persistent annual floods that can be linked to the effects of receding glaciers of the Rwenzori Mountain. The need to improve links between the latest research and decisions by policymakers cannot be overemphasized. This IPCC report should challenge political leaders into preparing and implementing NDCs that are sufficiently ambitious to contribute to mitigative measures that will sustainable support resilience for systems and people.” 

Teresa Anderson, Climate Policy Coordinator, ActionAid International:
“This stark warning from the IPCC confirms the reality already experienced by communities around the world. More frequent and intense heatwaves, droughts, fires, floods and cyclones are wreaking havoc on lives and ecosystems. Women and young people in the Global South are being hit especially hard by climate extremes and changing weather patterns.
“The IPCC tells us that limiting average global warming to 1.5°C is going to be difficult – but not impossible. This new report drills home the message that policymakers need to get serious. We urgently need radical and transformative action to bring emissions down to real zero. Unfortunately, too many ‘net zero’ climate plans are being used to greenwash pollution and business-as-usual, jeopardising the goals of the Paris Agreement.
“Looking ahead to COP26, rich countries that have done the most to cause the climate problem need to face up to their dual responsibility. They need to provide real support to poor countries hit by escalating climate impacts, and they need to get serious about urgent climate action.”

Agnes Hall, Campaign Director, 350.org: “This IPCC WGI report is a stark warning that humankind is on a collision course with nature. But the climate crisis didn’t come from nowhere and its progression is not inevitable.”
“For decades fossil fuel companies have known that the expansion of fossil fuels would eventually cause dramatic climate impacts. Half of all the CO2 emitted since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution was emitted over the last 30 years.”
“The good news is that we can still stop the worst case scenarios from ever materializing, if we kick our fossil fuel addiction now. But let’s be clear. Distant future net zero pledges are not going to get the job done. No climate plan that doesn’t include phasing out fossil fuels is a real climate plan.”

Eddy Pérez, International Climate Diplomacy Manager, Climate Action Network Canada: “This report confirms that limiting global warming to 1.5C is simply not negotiable. It is the only choice for a safe and healthy future, and it’s still possible. We need to fight to restore our broken relationship with nature and with ourselves; we need to fight back against any delays to urgent climate action. There is no substitute for phasing out fossil fuels and cutting emissions in half this decade.”

Kimiko Hirata, International Director, Kiko Network, Coordinator, CLimate Action Network Japan: “People around the world are witnessing devastating extreme events. The Tokyo Olympics now being held amid a deadly heatwave put sports athletes in danger. Guided by the compelling scientific evidence articulated by the new report, we must commit to accelerate actions to limit temperature rise to 1.5 C. Japan has to take further serious actions. Coal phase out, including stopping building new coal, is clearly a priority.”

Rhiannon Niven, Global Climate Change Policy Coordinator, BirdLife International: “Scientists have again found the climate crisis is worsening at a dangerous rate. It is clear that nature has a role to play in delivering net-zero through nature-sensitive renewables, ecosystem protection and restoration, and adaptation. Governments must urgently address the nature and climate crises together and deliver action at COP26 to protect lives and ecosystems for a green recovery.”

Dr Ruth Valerio, Director of Advocacy and Influencing, Tearfund: “The IPCC report makes it painfully clear that we are in a fight for survival and can’t afford distant promises of action. The door is still open on limiting warming to 1.5C – but only if world leaders make swift cuts to emissions and end further support for polluting fossil fuels. It’s time for politicians to stop dragging their feet and do what needs to be done to secure a safer world for us all. Anything less is accepting a death sentence for people at the frontline of this crisis.”

Chikondi Chabvuta, Southern Africa Policy Lead, CARE Malawi:
“This IPCC report is not only about climatic catastrophes, it is also about human suffering. Every fraction of a degree matters to the people already on the frontline of the climate emergency. With every fraction of a degree, it becomes harder for vulnerable communities to escape the cycle of poverty and inequality created by climate change. With each additional flood or drought, it becomes harder for women and young people especially to pick themselves back up again.”
“We have already seen more extreme heat and precipitation, more drought, and more powerful hurricanes, and the IPCC tells us that these conditions will become more and more severe. It’s time for rich nations to take on their responsibility for the critical state of the planet and they can start by living up to their commitments to help with funding for adaptation in less wealthy countries. At present they spend only around $20 billion a year out of the promised $50 billion. That is a disgrace, and should be dealt with as a matter of priority before COP26.”

Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia:
“In recent months the world has watched in horror as floods, fires, heatwaves, drought and cyclones have left a trail of disaster, killing hundreds across Asia, China, Africa, Europe and North America. Today’s IPCC report, from the best scientists of the world, notes that similar events are expected to be more frequent and severe in the warming world.”
“South Asian governments must keep the findings of this report in front of their minds as they plot the future course of action for economic recovery. This is a race against time. The phase out of fossil fuels, enhanced resilience building and robust regional cooperation are the decisions that need to be taken together. Developed countries must support developing countries with finance and technology to avoid the worst-case climate scenarios.”


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