Climate scientists huddle to finalize a grim report about failures to save warming planet

More than 200 of the world’s leading climate scientists will begin meeting today to finalize a landmark report summarizing how Earth’s climate has already changed, and what humans can expect for the rest of the century.

“There is no reasonable question that climate change is fueling such extreme weather events as wildfires engulfing much of the American west, heat waves, stronger storms and others around the globe,” said Lisa McCormick, a New Jersey environmentalist, who said the big picture is clear, even while the effects of a warming planet are causing hazy skies. 

The report is the sixth edition of an assessment of the latest climate science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body that coordinates research about global warming. The last edition of this report came out in 2013 — an eternity in the world of climate science, where the pace of both warming and research are steadily accelerating.

The IPCC session to approve the Summary for Policymakers and accept the underlying report of Working Group II is anticipated for 14-18 February 2022. The IPCC looks forward to presenting and discussing the report findings, subject to approval by the Panel, after that approval session.

The first part of the Sixth Assessment Report, the Working Group I contribution assessing the physical science basis of climate change, is expected to be released on 9 August following an approval session from 26 July to 6 August.

The Working Group III report, assessing the mitigation of climate change, will follow in the last week of March, and the Synthesis Report in September, but, besides Working Group I, dates remain subject to the impact of the pandemic and related measures.

The urgency of addressing global warming has never been more clear. The two-week virtual meeting of IPCC scientists coincides with a raft of deadly climate-driven disasters unfolding around the world, from flash floods in Europe, North America and Asia, to intense wildfires in Siberia, to widespread persistent heat waves and droughts that threaten to upend food supplies in the U.S., Middle East and much of Africa.

The new report will be a crucial document for world leaders. It represents the international scientific consensus about human-caused climate change. Governments rely on its predictions as they develop policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, manage forests and fisheries and decide how to protect their citizens from extreme weather.

In November, world leaders will meet for the first time since 2019 to discuss promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions — promises that are still insufficient to prevent catastrophic warming this century.

The IPCC is currently preparing its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). During this cycle, the Panel has produced three Special Reports, a Methodology Report on national greenhouse gas inventories and is now working on the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). More information on the sixth assessment cycle is available here.

The Sixth Assessment Report consists of contributions from each of the three IPCC Working Groups and a Synthesis Report (SYR), which integrates the Working Group contributions and the Special Reports produced in the cycle.

The Working Group I contribution will be considered during the 14th Session of Working Group I and 54th Session of the IPCC scheduled for 26 July to 6 August 2021. The report will be released, subject to approval and acceptance by the Panel, on 9 August. Essential information for media is available here

The meeting to draft the outline of the Sixth Assessment Report took place in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in May 2017. The draft outlines were approved by the 46th Session of the Panel in September 2017.

The First Order Draft of the Working Group I contribution to AR6 underwent an expert review (29 April – 23 June 2019).

The Second Order Draft was reviewed by  governments and experts from 2 March 2020. It was initially scheduled to end on 26 April,  but instead closed on 5 June.

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