Some people are more trusting of predictions and computer model projections than others. More than most, Corraleños likely are comfortable letting probabilities guide their decisions, at least to some extent. The United Nations report attracting so much attention these days, that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) titled “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis,” offers conclusions for policy makers based mostly on probabilities. And those are dire indeed. Of course, predictions can be notoriously, even laughably, wrong. Choose your worst example.
But among the statements of fact —not speculation or guesswork— are the following.
• “The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years.”
• “Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts and tropical cyclones and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since”
• “Heating of the climate system has caused global mean sea level rise through ice loss on land and thermal expansion from ocean warming. Thermal expansion explained 50 percent of sea level rise during 1971-2018, while ice loss from glaciers contributed 22 percent, ice sheets 20 percent and changes in landwater storage eight percent. The rate of ice sheet loss increased by a factor of four between 1992-1999 and 2010-2019.
“Together, ice sheet and glacier mass loss were the dominant contributors to global mean sea level rise during 2006-2018.”
• “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean and cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.”
Not just another technical report chock-full of specialists’ jargon, the 4,000-page document compiled by more than 500 contributing authors and reviewed by more than 230 climate experts around the world, has a summary for policymakers with four sections: The Current State of the Climate; Possible Climate Futures; Climate Information for Risk Assessment and Regional Adaptation; and Limiting Future Climate Change.
That 41-page summary is directed at you, as a citizen, and the people you choose to set policies in your best interest. So you need to understand what’s going on, and then do what it takes to persuade public and private decisionmakers to address the documented crises.
Perhaps the biggest advances over the IPCC’s previous reports are improvements in scientists’ ability to attribute specific weather phenomena to climate change that has resulted from human activities.
Below are verbatim excepts from the report’s summary for policymakers. Each of these findings is followed by references to technical reports and other data from which they are derived. Those references are not included in what follows. Many of those findings include an assessment as to the probability of (or confidence in) accuracy; those are included here.
• A.1.3. The likely range of total human-caused global surface temperature increase from 1850–1900 to 2010–201911 is 0.8°C to 1.3°C, with a best estimate of 1.07°C. It is likely that well-mixed GHGs contributed a warming of 1.0°C to 2.0°C, other human drivers (principally aerosols) contributed a cooling of 0.0°C to 0.8°C, natural drivers changed global surface temperature by –0.1°C to 0.1°C, and internal variability changed it by –0.2°C to 0.2°C. It is very likely that well-mixed greenhouse gases (GHGs) were the main driver of tropospheric warming since 1979, and extremely likely that human-caused stratospheric ozone depletion was the main driver of cooling of the lower stratosphere between 1979 and the mid-1990s.
• A.1.4. Globally averaged precipitation over land has likely increased since 1950, with a faster rate of increase since the 1980s (medium confidence). It is likely that human influence contributed to the pattern of observed precipitation changes since the mid-20th century, and extremely likely that human influence contributed to the pattern of observed changes in near-surface ocean salinity. Mid-latitude storm tracks have likely shifted poleward in both hemispheres since the 1980s, with marked seasonality in trends (medium confidence). For the Southern Hemisphere, human influence very likely contributed to the poleward shift of the closely related extratropical jet in austral summer.
•A.1.5. Human influence is very likely the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea ice area between 1979–1988 and 2010–2019 (about 40% in September and about 0% in March). There has been no significant trend in Antarctic sea ice area from 1979 to 2020 due to regionally opposing trends and large internal variability. Human influence very likely contributed to the decrease in Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover since 1950. It is very likely that human influence has contributed to the observed surface melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet over the past two decades, but there is only limited evidence, with medium agreement, of human influence on the Antarctic Ice Sheet mass loss.
• A.1.6. It is virtually certain that the global upper ocean (0–700 m) has warmed since the 1970s and extremely likely that human influence is the main driver. It is virtually certain that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main driver of current global acidification of the surface open ocean. There is high confidence that oxygen levels have dropped in many upper ocean regions since the mid-20th century, and medium confidence that human influence contributed to this drop.
• A.1.7. Global mean sea level increased by 0.20 [0.15 to 0.25] meter between 1901 and 2018. The average rate of sea level rise was 1.3 [0.6 to 2.1] mm yr–1 between 1901 and 1971, increasing to 1.9 [0.8 to 2.9] mm yr–1 between 1971 and 2006, and further increasing to 3.7 [3.2 to 4.2] mm yr–1 between 2006 and 2018 (high confidence). Human influence was very likely the main driver of these increases since at least 1971.
• A.1.8. Changes in the land biosphere since 1970 are consistent with global warming: climate zones have shifted poleward in both hemispheres, and the growing season has on average lengthened by up to two days per decade since the 1950s in the Northern Hemisphere extratropics (high confidence).
Human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years.
• A.2. The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years.
• A.2.1. In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years (high confidence), and concentrations of CH4 and N2O were higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years (very high confidence). Since 1750, increases in CO2 (47%) and CH4 (156%) concentrations far exceed, and increases in N2O (23%) are similar to, the natural multi-millennial changes between glacial and interglacial periods over at least the past 800,000 years (very high confidence).
• A.2.2 Global surface temperature has increased faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over at least the last 2,000 years (high confidence). Temperatures during the most recent decade (2011–2020) exceed those of the most recent multi-century warm period, around 6500 years ago13 [0.2°C to 1°C relative to 1850– 1900] (medium confidence). Prior to that, the next most recent warm period was about 125,000 years ago when the multi-century temperature [0.5°C to 1.5°C relative to 1850–1900] overlaps the observations of the most recent decade (medium confidence).
• A.2.3. In 2011–2020, annual average Arctic sea ice area reached its lowest level since at least 1850 (high confidence). Late summer Arctic sea ice area was smaller than at any time in at least the past 1000 years (medium confidence). The global nature of glacier retreat, with almost all of the world’s glaciers retreating synchronously, since the 1950s is unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years (medium confidence).
• A.2.4. Global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900 than over any preceding century in at least the last 3,000 years (high confidence). The global ocean has warmed faster over the past century than since the end of the last deglacial transition (around 11,000 years ago) (medium confidence). A long-term increase in surface open ocean pH occurred over the past 50 million years (high confidence), and surface open ocean pH as low as recent decades is unusual in the last 2 million years (medium confidence).
• A.3. Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since AR5.
• A.3. It is virtually certain that hot extremes (including heatwaves) have become more frequent and more intense across most land regions since the 1950s, while cold extremes (including cold waves) have become less frequent and less severe, with high confidence that human-induced climate change is the main driver of these changes. Some recent hot extremes observed over the past decade would have been extremely unlikely to occur without human influence on the climate system. Marine heatwaves have approximately doubled in frequency since the 1980s (high confidence), and human influence has very likely contributed to most of them since at least 2006.
• A.3.2. The frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events have increased since the 1950s over most land area for which observational data are sufficient for trend analysis (high confidence), and human-induced climate change is likely the main driver. Human-induced climate change has contributed to increases in agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions due to increased land evapotranspiration16 (medium confidence).
A.3.3. Decreases in global land monsoon precipitation from the 1950s to the 1980s are partly attributed to human-caused Northern Hemisphere aerosol emissions, but increases since then have resulted from rising GHG concentrations and decadal to multi-decadal internal variability (medium confidence). Over South Asia, East Asia and West Africa increases in monsoon precipitation due to warming from GHG emissions were counteracted by decreases in monsoon precipitation due to cooling from human-caused aerosol emissions over the 20th century (high confidence). Increases in West African monsoon precipitation since the 1980s are partly due to the growing influence of GHGs and reductions in the cooling effect of human-caused aerosol emissions over Europe and North America (medium confidence).
• A.3.4. It is likely that the global proportion of major (Category 3–5) tropical cyclone occurrence has increased over the last four decades, and the latitude where tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific reach their peak intensity has shifted northward; these changes cannot be explained by internal variability alone (medium confidence). There is low confidence in long-term (multi-decadal to centennial) trends in the frequency of all-category tropical cyclones. Event attribution studies and physical understanding indicate that human-induced climate change increases heavy precipitation associated with tropical cyclones (high confidence) but data limitations inhibit clear detection of past trends on the global scale.
• A.3.5. Human influence has likely increased the chance of compound extreme events since the 1950s.
This includes increases in the frequency of concurrent heatwaves and droughts on the global scale (high confidence); fire weather in some regions of all inhabited continents (medium confidence); and compound flooding in some locations (medium confidence).
• A.4. Improved knowledge of climate processes, paleoclimate evidence and the response of the climate system to increasing radiative forcing gives a best estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity of 3°C with a narrower range compared to AR5.
• A.4.1. Human-caused radiative forcing of 2.72 [1.96 to 3.48] W m–2 in 2019 relative to 1750 has warmed the climate system. This warming is mainly due to increased GHG concentrations, partly reduced by cooling due to increased aerosol concentrations. The radiative forcing has increased by 0.43 W m–2 (19%) relative to AR5, of which 0.34 W m–2 is due to the increase in GHG concentrations since 2011. The remainder is due to improved scientific understanding and changes in the assessment of aerosol forcing, which include decreases in concentration and improvement in its calculation (high confidence).
• A.4.2. Human-caused net positive radiative forcing causes an accumulation of additional energy (heating) in the climate system, partly reduced by increased energy loss to space in response to surface warming. The observed average rate of heating of the climate system increased from 0.50 [0.32 to 0.69] W m–2 for the period 1971–200619, to 0.79 [0.52 to 1.06] W m–2 for the period 2006–201820 (high confidence). Ocean warming accounted for 91% of the heating in the climate system, with land warming, ice loss and atmospheric warming accounting for about 5%, 3% and 1%, respectively (high confidence).
• A.4.3. Heating of the climate system has caused global mean sea level rise through ice loss on land and thermal expansion from ocean warming. Thermal expansion explained 50% of sea level rise during 1971– 2018, while ice loss from glaciers contributed 22%, ice sheets 20% and changes in land water storage 8%.
The rate of ice sheet loss increased by a factor of four between 1992–1999 and 2010–2019. Together, ice sheet and glacier mass loss were the dominant contributors to global mean sea level rise during 2006-2018. (high confidence)
Section B. Possible Climate Futures
A set of five new illustrative emissions scenarios is considered consistently across this report to explore the climate response to a broader range of greenhouse gas (GHG), land use and air pollutant futures than assessed in AR5. This set of scenarios drives climate model projections of changes in the climate system.
These projections account for solar activity and background forcing from volcanoes. Results over the 21st century are provided for the near-term (2021–2040), mid-term (2041–2060) and long-term (2081–2100) relative to 1850–1900, unless otherwise stated.
• B.1. Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.
• B.1.1. Compared to 1850–1900, global surface temperature averaged over 2081–2100 is very likely to be higher by 1.0°C to 1.8°C under the very low GHG emissions scenario considered (SSP1-1.9), by 2.1°C to 3.5°C in the intermediate scenario (SSP2-4.5) and by 3.3°C to 5.7°C under the very high GHG emissions scenario (SSP5-8.5)24.
The last time global surface temperature was sustained at or above 2.5°C higher than 1850–1900 was over 3 million years ago (medium confidence). 1900, would be exceeded during the 21st century under the high and very high GHG emissions scenarios considered in this report (SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5, respectively). Global warming of 2°C would extremely likely be exceeded in the intermediate scenario (SSP2-4.5). Under the very low and low GHG emissions scenarios, global warming of 2°C is extremely unlikely to be exceeded (SSP1-1.9), or unlikely to be exceeded (SSP1-2.6)25. Crossing the 2°C global warming level in the mid-term period (2041–2060) is very likely to occur under the very high GHG emissions scenario (SSP5-8.5), likely to occur under the high GHG emissions scenario (SSP3-7.0), and more likely than not to occur in the intermediate GHG emissions scenario (SSP2-4.5).
• B.1.3. Global warming of 1.5°C relative to 1850-1900 would be exceeded during the 21st century under the intermediate, high and very high scenarios considered in this report (SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5, respectively). Under the five illustrative scenarios, in the near term (2021-2040), the 1.5°C global warming level is very likely to be exceeded under the very high GHG emissions scenario (SSP5-8.5), likely to be exceeded under the intermediate and high GHG emissions scenarios (SSP2-4.5 and SSP3-7.0), more likely than not to be exceeded under the low GHG emissions scenario (SSP1-2.6) and more likely than not to be reached under the very low GHG emissions scenario (SSP1-1.9)27. Furthermore, for the very low GHG emissions scenario (SSP1-1.9), it is more likely than not that global surface temperature would decline back to below 1.5°C toward the end of the 21st century, with a temporary overshoot of no more than 0.1°C above 1.5°C global warming.
• B.1.4. Global surface temperature in any single year can vary above or below the long-term human-induced trend, due to substantial natural variability. The occurrence of individual years with global surface temperature change above a certain level, for example 1.5°C or 2ºC, relative to 1850–1900 does not imply that this global warming level has been reached.
• B.2. Many changes in the climate system become larger in direct relation to increasing global warming. They include increases in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.
• B.2.1. It is virtually certain that the land surface will continue to warm more than the ocean surface (likely 1.4 to 1.7 times more). It is virtually certain that the Arctic will continue to warm more than global surface temperature, with high confidence above two times the rate of global warming.
• B.2.2. With every additional increment of global warming, changes in extremes continue to become larger.
For example, every additional 0.5°C of global warming causes clearly discernible increases in the intensity and frequency of hot extremes, including heatwaves (very likely), and heavy precipitation (high confidence), as well as agricultural and ecological droughts30 in some regions (high confidence). Discernible changes in intensity and frequency of meteorological droughts, with more regions showing increases than decreases, are seen in some regions for every additional 0.5°C of global warming (medium confidence). Increases in frequency and intensity of hydrological droughts become larger with increasing global warming in some regions (medium confidence). There will be an increasing occurrence of some extreme events unprecedented in the observational record with additional global warming, even at 1.5°C of global warming. Projected percentage changes in frequency are higher for rarer events (high confidence).
B.2.3. Some mid-latitude and semi-arid regions, and the South American Monsoon region, are projected to see the highest increase in the temperature of the hottest days, at about 1.5 to 2 times the rate of global warming (high confidence). The Arctic is projected to experience the highest increase in the temperature of the coldest days, at about 3 times the rate of global warming (high confidence). With additional global warming, the frequency of marine heatwaves will continue to increase (high confidence), particularly in the tropical ocean and the Arctic (medium confidence).
• B.2.4. It is very likely that heavy precipitation events will intensify and become more frequent in most regions with additional global warming. At the global scale, extreme daily precipitation events are projected to intensify by about 7% for each 1°C of global warming (high confidence). The proportion of intense tropical cyclones (categories 4-5) and peak wind speeds of the most intense tropical cyclones are projected to increase at the global scale with increasing global warming (high confidence).
• B.2.5. Additional warming is projected to further amplify permafrost thawing, and loss of seasonal snow cover, of land ice and of Arctic sea ice (high confidence). The Arctic is likely to be practically sea ice free in September at least once before 2050 under the five illustrative scenarios considered in this report, with more frequent occurrences for higher warming levels. There is low confidence in the projected decrease of Antarctic sea ice.
• B.3. Continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle, including its variability, global monsoon precipitation and the severity of wet and dry events.
• B.3.1. There is strengthened evidence since AR5 that the global water cycle will continue to intensify as global temperatures rise (high confidence), with precipitation and surface water flows projected to become more variable over most land regions within seasons (high confidence) and from year to year (medium confidence). The average annual global land precipitation is projected to increase by 0–5% under the very low GHG emissions scenario (SSP1-1.9), 1.5-8% for the intermediate GHG emissions scenario (SSP2-4.5) and 1–13% under the very high GHG emissions scenario (SSP5-8.5) by 2081–2100 relative to 1995-2014 (likely ranges). Precipitation is projected to increase over high latitudes, the equatorial Pacific and parts of the monsoon regions, but decrease over parts of the subtropics and limited areas in the tropics in SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5 (very likely). The portion of the global land experiencing detectable increases or decreases in seasonal mean precipitation is projected to increase (medium confidence). There is high confidence in an earlier onset of spring snowmelt, with higher peak flows at the expense of summer flows in snow-dominated regions globally.
• B.3.2. A warmer climate will intensify very wet and very dry weather and climate events and seasons, with implications for flooding or drought (high confidence), but the location and frequency of these events depend on projected changes in regional atmospheric circulation, including monsoons and mid-latitude storm tracks.
It is very likely that rainfall variability related to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation is projected to be amplified by the second half of the 21st century in the SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5 scenarios.
• B.3.3. Monsoon precipitation is projected to increase in the mid- to long term at global scale, particularly over South and Southeast Asia, East Asia and West Africa apart from the far west Sahel (high confidence).
The monsoon season is projected to have a delayed onset over North and South America and West Africa (high confidence) and a delayed retreat over West Africa (medium confidence).
• B.3.4. A projected southward shift and intensification of Southern Hemisphere summer mid-latitude storm tracks and associated precipitation is likely in the long term under high GHG emissions scenarios (SSP3-7.0, SSP5-8.5), but in the near term the effect of stratospheric ozone recovery counteracts these changes (high confidence). There is medium confidence in a continued poleward shift of storms and their precipitation in the North Pacific, while there is low confidence in projected changes in the North Atlantic storm tracks.
• B.4. Under scenarios with increasing CO2 emissions, the ocean and land carbon sinks are projected to be less effective at slowing the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere.
• B.4.1. While natural land and ocean carbon sinks are projected to take up, in absolute terms, a progressively larger amount of CO2 under higher compared to lower CO2 emissions scenarios, they become less effective, that is, the proportion of emissions taken up by land and ocean decrease with increasing cumulative CO2 emissions. This is projected to result in a higher proportion of emitted CO2 remaining in the atmosphere (high confidence).
• B.4.2. Based on model projections, under the intermediate scenario that stabilizes atmospheric CO2 concentrations this century (SSP2-4.5), the rates of CO2 taken up by the land and oceans are projected to decrease in the second half of the 21st century (high confidence). Under the very low and low GHG emissions scenarios (SSP1-1.9, SSP1-2.6), where CO2 concentrations peak and decline during the 21st century, land and oceans begin to take up less carbon in response to declining atmospheric CO2 concentrations (high confidence) and turn into a weak net source by 2100 under SSP1-1.9 (medium confidence). It is very unlikely that the combined global land and ocean sink will turn into a source by 2100 under scenarios without net negative emissions.
• B.4.3. The magnitude of feedbacks between climate change and the carbon cycle becomes larger but also more uncertain in high CO2 emissions scenarios (very high confidence). However, climate model projections show that the uncertainties in atmospheric CO2 concentrations by 2100 are dominated by the differences between emissions scenarios (high confidence). Additional ecosystem responses to warming not yet fully included in climate models, such as CO2 and CH4 fluxes from wetlands, permafrost thaw and wildfires, would further increase concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere (high confidence).
• B.5. Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.
• B.5.1. Past GHG emissions since 1750 have committed the global ocean to future warming (high confidence). Over the rest of the 21st century, likely ocean warming ranges from 2–4 (SSP1-2.6) to 4–8 times (SSP5-8.5) the 1971–2018 change. Based on multiple lines of evidence, upper ocean stratification (virtually certain), ocean acidification (virtually certain) and ocean deoxygenation (high confidence) will continue to increase in the 21st century, at rates dependent on future emissions. Changes are irreversible on centennial to millennial time scales in global ocean temperature (very high confidence), deep ocean acidification (very high confidence) and de-oxygenation (medium confidence).
• B.5.2. Mountain and polar glaciers are committed to continue melting for decades or centuries (very high confidence). Loss of permafrost carbon following permafrost thaw is irreversible at centennial timescales (high confidence). Continued ice loss over the 21st century is virtually certain for the Greenland Ice Sheet and likely for the Antarctic Ice Sheet. There is high confidence that total ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet will increase with cumulative emissions. There is limited evidence for low-likelihood, high-impact outcomes (resulting from ice sheet instability processes characterized by deep uncertainty and in some cases involving tipping points) that would strongly increase ice loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet for centuries under high GHG emissions scenarios.
• B.5.3. It is virtually certain that global mean sea level will continue to rise over the 21st century. Relative to 1995-2014, the likely global mean sea level rise by 2100 is 0.28-0.55 m under the very low GHG emissions scenario (SSP1-1.9), 0.32-0.62 m under the low GHG emissions scenario (SSP1-2.6), 0.44-0.76 m under the intermediate GHG emissions scenario (SSP2-4.5), and 0.63-1.01 m under the very high GHG emissions scenario (SSP5-8.5), and by 2150 is 0.37-0.86 m under the very low scenario (SSP1-1.9), 0.46- 0.99 m under the low scenario (SSP1-2.6), 0.66-1.33 m under the intermediate scenario (SSP2-4.5), and 0.98-1.88 m under the very high scenario (SSP5-8.5) (medium confidence)35. Global mean sea level rise above the likely range – approaching 2 m by 2100 and 5 m by 2150 under a very high GHG emissions scenario (SSP5-8.5) (low confidence) – cannot be ruled out due to deep uncertainty in ice sheet processes.
• B.5.4. In the longer term, sea level is committed to rise for centuries to millennia due to continuing deep ocean warming and ice sheet melt, and will remain elevated for thousands of years (high confidence). Over the next 2000 years, global mean sea level will rise by about 2 to 3 m if warming is limited to 1.5°C, 2 to 6 m if limited to 2°C and 19 to 22 m with 5°C of warming, and it will continue to rise over subsequent millennia (low confidence). Projections of multi-millennial global mean sea level rise are consistent with reconstructed levels during past warm climate periods: likely 5–10 m higher than today around 125,000 years ago, when global temperatures were very likely 0.5°C–1.5°C higher than 1850–1900; and very likely 5–25 m higher roughly 3 million years ago, when global temperatures were 2.5°C–4°C higher (medium confidence).
• C. Climate Information for Risk Assessment and Regional Adaptation
Physical climate information addresses how the climate system responds to the interplay between human influence, natural drivers and internal variability. Knowledge of the climate response and the range of possible outcomes, including low-likelihood, high impact outcomes, informs climate services – the assessment of climate-related risks and adaptation planning. Physical climate information at global, regional and local scales is developed from multiple lines of evidence, including observational products, climate model outputs and tailored diagnostics.
• C.1. Natural drivers and internal variability will modulate human-caused changes, especially at regional scales and in the near term, with little effect on centennial global warming.
These modulations are important to consider in planning for the full range of possible changes.
• C.1.1. The historical global surface temperature record highlights that decadal variability has enhanced and masked underlying human-caused long-term changes, and this variability will continue into the future (very high confidence). For example, internal decadal variability and variations in solar and volcanic drivers partially masked human-caused surface global warming during 1998–2012, with pronounced regional and seasonal signatures (high confidence). Nonetheless, the heating of the climate system continued during this period, as reflected in both the continued warming of the global ocean (very high confidence) and in the continued rise of hot extremes over land (medium confidence).
• C.1.2. Projected human caused changes in mean climate and climatic impact-drivers (CIDs)36, including extremes, will be either amplified or attenuated by internal variability (high confidence). Near-term cooling at any particular location with respect to present climate could occur and would be consistent with the global surface temperature increase due to human influence (high confidence).
• C.1.3. Internal variability has largely been responsible for the amplification and attenuation of the observed human-caused decadal-to-multi-decadal mean precipitation changes in many land regions (high confidence).
At global and regional scales, near-term changes in monsoons will be dominated by the effects of internal variability (medium confidence). In addition to internal variability influence, near-term projected changes in precipitation at global and regional scales are uncertain because of model uncertainty and uncertainty in forcings from natural and anthropogenic aerosols (medium confidence).
• C.1.4. Based on paleoclimate and historical evidence, it is likely that at least one large explosive volcanic eruption would occur during the 21st century. Such an eruption would reduce global surface temperature and precipitation, especially over land, for one to three years, alter the global monsoon circulation, modify extreme precipitation and change many CIDs (medium confidence). If such an eruption occurs, this would therefore temporarily and partially mask human-caused climate change.
• C.2. With further global warming, every region is projected to increasingly experience concurrent and multiple changes in climatic impact-drivers. Changes in several climatic impact-drivers would be more widespread at 2°C compared to 1.5°C global warming and even more widespread and/or pronounced for higher warming levels.
• C.2.1. All regions are projected to experience further increases in hot climatic impact-drivers (CIDs) and decreases in cold CIDs (high confidence). Further decreases are projected in permafrost, snow, glaciers and ice sheets, lake and Arctic sea ice (medium to high confidence). These changes would be larger at 2°C global warming or above than at 1.5°C (high confidence). For example, extreme heat thresholds relevant to agriculture and health are projected to be exceeded more frequently at higher global warming levels (high confidence).
• C.2.2. At 1.5°C global warming, heavy precipitation and associated flooding are projected to intensify and be more frequent in most regions in Africa and Asia (high confidence), North America (medium to high confidence) and Europe (medium confidence). Also, more frequent and/or severe agricultural and ecological droughts are projected in a few regions in all continents except Asia compared to 1850–1900 (medium confidence); increases in meteorological droughts are also projected in a few regions (medium confidence). A small number of regions are projected to experience increases or decreases in mean precipitation (medium confidence).
• C.2.3. At 2°C global warming and above, the level of confidence in and the magnitude of the change in droughts and heavy and mean precipitation increase compared to those at 1.5°C. Heavy precipitation and associated flooding events are projected to become more intense and frequent in the Pacific Islands and across many regions of North America and Europe (medium to high confidence). These changes are also seen in some regions in Australasia and Central and South America (medium confidence). Several regions in Africa, South America and Europe are projected to experience an increase in frequency and/or severity of agricultural and ecological droughts with medium to high confidence; increases are also projected in Australasia, Central and North America, and the Caribbean with medium confidence. A small number of regions in Africa, Australasia, Europe and North America are also projected to be affected by increases in hydrological droughts, and several regions are projected to be affected by increases or decreases in meteorological droughts with more regions displaying an increase (medium confidence). Mean precipitation is projected to increase in all polar, northern European and northern North American regions, most Asian regions and two regions of South America (high confidence).
• C.2.4. More CIDs across more regions are projected to change at 2°C and above compared to 1.5°C global warming (high confidence). Region-specific changes include intensification of tropical cyclones and/or extratropical storms (medium confidence), increases in river floods (medium to high confidence), reductions in mean precipitation and increases in aridity (medium to high confidence), and increases in fire weather (medium to high confidence). There is low confidence in most regions in potential future changes in other CIDs, such as hail, ice storms, severe storms, dust storms, heavy snowfall, and landslides.
• C.2.5. It is very likely to virtually certain that regional mean relative sea level rise will continue throughout the 21st century, except in a few regions with substantial geologic land uplift rates.
Approximately two-thirds of the global coastline has a projected regional relative sea level rise within ±20% of the global mean increase (medium confidence). Due to relative sea level rise, extreme sea level events that occurred once per century in the recent past are projected to occur at least annually at more than half of all tide gauge locations by 2100 (high confidence). Relative sea level rise contributes to increases in the frequency and severity of coastal flooding in low-lying areas and to coastal erosion along most sandy coasts (high confidence).
• C.2. Cities intensify human-induced warming locally, and further urbanization together with more frequent hot extremes will increase the severity of heatwaves (very high confidence). Urbanization also increases mean and heavy precipitation over and/or downwind of cities (medium confidence) and resulting runoff intensity (high confidence). In coastal cities, the combination of more frequent extreme sea level events (due to sea level rise and storm surge) and extreme rainfall/riverflow events will make flooding more probable (high confidence).
• C.2.7. Many regions are projected to experience an increase in the probability of compound events with higher global warming (high confidence). In particular, concurrent heatwaves and droughts are likely to become more frequent. Concurrent extremes at multiple locations become more frequent, including in crop producing areas, at 2°C and above compared to 1.5°C global warming (high confidence).
• C.3. Low-likelihood outcomes, such as ice sheet collapse, abrupt ocean circulation changes, some compound extreme events and warming substantially larger than the assessed very likely range of future warming cannot be ruled out and are part of risk assessment.
• C.3.1. If global warming exceeds the assessed very likely range for a given GHG emissions scenario, including low GHG emissions scenarios, global and regional changes in many aspects of the climate system, such as regional precipitation and other CIDs, would also exceed their assessed very likely ranges (high confidence). Such low-likelihood high-warming outcomes are associated with potentially very large impacts, such as through more intense and more frequent heatwaves and heavy precipitation, and high risks for human and ecological systems particularly for high GHG emissions scenarios.
• C.3. Low-likelihood, high-impact outcomes could occur at global and regional scales even for global warming within the very likely range for a given GHG emissions scenario. The probability of low-likelihood, high impact outcomes increases with higher global warming levels (high confidence). Abrupt responses and tipping points of the climate system, such as strongly increased Antarctic ice sheet melt and forest dieback, cannot be ruled out (high confidence).
• C.3. If global warming increases, some compound extreme events with low likelihood in past and current climate will become more frequent, and there will be a higher likelihood that events with increased intensities, durations and/or spatial extents unprecedented in the observational record will occur (high confidence).
C.3.4. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation is very likely to weaken over the 21st century for all emission scenarios. While there is high confidence in the 21st century decline, there is only low confidence in the magnitude of the trend. There is medium confidence that there will not be an abrupt collapse before 2100. If such a collapse were to occur, it would very likely cause abrupt shifts in regional,weather patterns and water cycle, such as a southward shift in the tropical rain belt, weakening of the African and Asian monsoons and strengthening of Southern Hemisphere monsoons, and drying in Europe.
C.3.5. Unpredictable and rare natural events not related to human influence on climate may lead to low likelihood, high impact outcomes. For example, a sequence of large explosive volcanic eruptions within decades has occurred in the past, causing substantial global and regional climate perturbations over several decades. Such events cannot be ruled out in the future, but due to their inherent unpredictability they are not included in the illustrative set of scenarios referred to in this Report.
• D. Limiting Future Climate Change
Since AR5, estimates of remaining carbon budgets have been improved by a new methodology first presented in SR1.5, updated evidence, and the integration of results from multiple lines of evidence. A comprehensive range of possible future air pollution controls in scenarios is used to consistently assess the effects of various assumptions on projections of climate and air pollution. A novel development is the ability to ascertain when climate responses to emissions reductions would become discernible above natural climate variability, including internal variability and responses to natural drivers.
D.1. From a physical science perspective, limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions. Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CH4 emissions would also limit the warming effect resulting from declining aerosol pollution and would improve air quality.
• D.1.1. This Report reaffirms with high confidence the AR5 finding that there is a near-linear relationship between cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions and the global warming they cause. Each 1000 GtCO2 of cumulative CO2 emissions is assessed to likely cause a 0.27°C to 0.63°C increase in global surface temperature with a best estimate of 0.45°C41. This is a narrower range compared to AR5 and SR1.5. This quantity is referred to as the transient climate response to cumulative CO2 emissions (TCRE). This relationship implies that reaching net zero42 anthropogenic CO2 emissions is a requirement to stabilize human-induced global temperature increase at any level, but that limiting global temperature increase to a specific level would imply limiting cumulative CO2 emissions to within a carbon budget.
• D.2. Scenarios with very low or low GHG emissions (SSP1-1.9 and SSP1-2.6) lead within years to discernible effects on greenhouse gas and aerosol concentrations, and air quality, relative to high and very high GHG emissions scenarios (SSP3-7.0 or SSP5-8.5).
Under these contrasting scenarios, discernible differences in trends of global surface temperature would begin to emerge from natural variability within around 20 years, and over longer time periods for many other climatic impact-drivers (high confidence).
• D.2.1. Emissions reductions in 2020 associated with measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 led to temporary but detectible effects on air pollution (high confidence), and an associated small, temporary increase in total radiative forcing, primarily due to reductions in cooling caused by aerosols arising from human activities (medium confidence). Global and regional climate responses to this temporary forcing are, however, undetectable above natural variability (high confidence). Atmospheric CO2 concentrations continued to rise in 2020, with no detectable decrease in the observed CO2 growth rate (medium confidence).
• D.2.2. Reductions in GHG emissions also lead to air quality improvements. However, in the near term, even in scenarios with strong reduction of GHGs, as in the low and very low GHG emission scenarios (SSP1-2.6 and SSP1-1.9), these improvements are not sufficient in many polluted regions to achieve air quality guidelines specified by the World Health Organization (high confidence). Scenarios with targeted reductions of air pollutant emissions lead to more rapid improvements in air quality within years compared to reductions in GHG emissions only, but from 2040, further improvements are projected in scenarios that combine efforts to reduce air pollutants as well as GHG emissions with the magnitude of the benefit varying between regions (high confidence).
• D.2.3. Scenarios with very low or low GHG emissions (SSP1-1.9 and SSP1-2.6) would have rapid and sustained effects to limit human-caused climate change, compared with scenarios with high or very high GHG emissions (SSP3-7.0 or SSP5-8.5), but early responses of the climate system can be masked by natural variability. For global surface temperature, differences in 20-year trends would likely emerge during the near term under a very low GHG emission scenario (SSP1-1.9), relative to a high or very high GHG emission scenario (SSP3-7.0 or SSP5-8.5). The response of many other climate variables would emerge from natural variability at different times later in the 21st century (high confidence).
• D.2.4. Scenarios with very low and low GHG emissions (SSP1-1.9 and SSP1-2.6) would lead to substantially smaller changes in a range of CIDs beyond 2040 than under high and very high GHG emissions scenarios (SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5). By the end of the century, scenarios with very low and low GHG emissions would strongly limit the change of several CIDs, such as the increase in the frequency of extreme sea level events, heavy precipitation and pluvial flooding, and exceedance of dangerous heat thresholds, while limiting the number of regions where such exceedances occur, relative to higher GHG emissions scenarios (high confidence). Changes would also be smaller in very low compared to low emissions scenarios, as well as for intermediate (SSP2-4.5) compared to high or very high emissions scenarios (high confidence).
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