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Earth Day 2023 will be celebrated on 22nd April 2023, this is a little below a month after the IPCC finalized the Synthesis Report for the 6th Assessment Report during the Panel's 58th Session held in Interlaken Switzerland, from 13 - 19 March 2023.

The AR6 presents somber content. Spanning almost 8,000 pages, it depicts the severe aftermath of escalating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide, such as the destruction of residences, the elimination of income sources, and the disintegration of societies. Additionally, it warns of the growing perilous and permanent hazards that may arise if corrective measures are not taken.

The report shows the dire consequences of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the urgent need to take corrective measures to mitigate these consequences. Since Earth Day is a day dedicated to raising awareness and promoting actions to protect the environment, this report underscores the importance of taking concrete actions to address climate change and its impact on the planet. It serves as a reminder of the critical role that every individual, organization, and government can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving the environment for future generations. Overall, it emphasizes the urgency of action on Earth Day and beyond to address the global climate crisis.

The IPCC report acknowledges the grim reality of the intensifying risks caused by the rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the report also provides a glimmer of hope by identifying ways to mitigate the impact of climate change. The report highlights several readily available and cost-effective actions that can be implemented now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience, and scale up carbon removal. These measures include increasing the use of renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, promoting sustainable land-use practices, and investing in research and innovation.

Despite the urgency of the situation, the IPCC report affirms that there is still time to avert the worst impacts of climate change. By taking bold and decisive action now, we can secure a safe and livable future for ourselves and future generations. The report underscores the importance of collective action by individuals, organizations, and governments to combat climate change and protect the planet. As we celebrate Earth Day, let us renew our commitment to making the changes necessary to safeguard our planet and ensure a sustainable future for all.

Here are some key findings from the report:

The impacts of climate change have affected human systems and ecosystems worldwide, causing damages and losses. The availability of water and its quality have been affected by climate change, as well as mental health and displacement. Human activities have been attributed to the observed changes in climate conditions and impacts. Observed changes in global surface temperature since 1900 have been linked to climate conditions and will continue to change based on different greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

Photo credit: IPCC Report 2023, Figure SPM.2

The above figure is a graphic representation of the projected changes in annual maximum daily maximum temperature, annual mean total column soil moisture, and annual maximum 1-day precipitation at different global warming levels (1.5°C, 2°C, 3°C, and 4°C) relative to 1850-1900. It displays the projected changes in annual maximum daily temperature, annual mean total column soil moisture, and annual maximum 1-day precipitation in degrees Celsius, standard deviation, and percentage, respectively. The graphic uses the CMIP6 multi-model median changes and shows that large positive relative changes in dry regions may correspond to small absolute changes. In panel (b), the unit is the standard deviation of interannual variability in soil moisture during 1850-1900, which is a widely used metric in characterizing drought severity.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation financing

According to the IPCC, public and private finance for fossil fuels exceeds that directed towards climate mitigation and adaptation. Climate finance needs to increase by 3 to 6 times by 2030 to achieve global climate change goals, with the gap being widest in developing countries already struggling with debt and economic burdens from COVID-19. Recent investments in mitigation need to increase by at least sixfold in Southeast Asia and developing countries in the Pacific, fivefold in Africa, and fourteenfold in the Middle East by 2030 to hold warming below 2 degrees C. Finance for adaptation and loss and damage will also need to rise significantly, with developing countries requiring $127 billion per year by 2030 and $295 billion per year by 2050. However, current funds for both fall below estimated needs, with the highest estimates of adaptation finance totaling under $50 billion per year.

Botswana Climate Change Network climate adaptation and mitigation hydroponics project at Makgadikgadi Framework

Highlights from the report

  • The IPCC report states that projected CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure without additional abatement would exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C, making it likely that we will surpass this threshold. The report emphasizes that human action has already caused 1.1°C of global warming and that urgent action is needed to prevent the worst disasters.

  • Regrettably, decreasing emissions, even if it's a significant reduction, is no longer sufficient to prevent the most severe effects of the climate crisis. Currently, our priority should be to concentrate on eliminating CO2 from the atmosphere as quickly as possible. According to the report, "Achieving net zero GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions mainly requires profound reductions in CO2, methane, and other GHG emissions, and implies net-negative CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) will be necessary to achieve net-negative CO2 emissions."

  • The global carbon budget to limit warming to 1.5°C is set at 510 GtCO2; however, existing and planned fossil fuel infrastructure alone could surpass that limit by 340 GtCO2. Retiring existing infrastructure, cancelling new projects, and scaling up renewable energy sources like solar and wind can help to avoid these emissions. The use of abatement technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) is also important in limiting warming to 1.5°C, as global use of coal falls by 95% by 2050, oil declines by about 60%, and gas by about 45%. Failure to change course risks stranding assets worth trillions of dollars.

  • This report highlights the disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalized communities despite them contributing far less to greenhouse gas emissions than wealthier households. Vulnerable communities, particularly in the global hotspots of the Arctic, Central and South America, Small Island Developing states, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, face extreme weather conditions, limited access to basic services, and poverty. While climate policies like carbon taxes can be regressive, measures such as reconfiguring social protection programs and job retraining programs can help mitigate the impact on marginalized communities. Inclusive decision-making processes will also be crucial in ensuring a just transition towards a net-zero-emissions, climate-resilient future.

  • Effective climate action requires political commitment, well-aligned governance, institutional frameworks, laws, policies, strategies, and access to finance and technology. Clear goals, coordination, and inclusive governance processes are crucial. Regulatory and economic instruments can help achieve deep emissions reductions and climate resilience. Prioritizing equity, social justice, inclusion, and just transition processes can enable adaptation, ambitious mitigation actions, and climate-resilient development. Supporting vulnerable regions and integrating climate adaptation into social protection programs can enhance adaptation outcomes. Various options are available for reducing emission-intensive consumption, including through behavioural and lifestyle changes, with co-benefits for societal well-being.

Photo credit: IPCC Report 2023, Figure SPM.3 This figure discusses the projected risks and impacts of climate change on both natural and human systems at different levels of global warming relative to pre-industrial levels. The risks and impacts are shown above are based on outputs from different Earth system and impact models. The impacts include risks to species losses due to temperature changes, risks to human health from exposure to hyperthermic conditions, and impacts on food production such as changes in maize yield and maximum fisheries catch potential. The figure depict the projected changes in each impact indicator at different levels of global warming, with corresponding ranges of future global warming levels shown under different scenarios. However, the projections do not consider extreme events impacting ecosystems, and data limitations prevent analysis of biodiversity and fisheries in Antarctica.

The above information and data was summarized from the IPCC report, you can find it here: We all have a responsibility to contribute to environmental conservation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We can all play a role in protecting our planet and ensuring a sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

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