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The physical science of climate change

The first part of the most recent IPCC report, ‘The Physical Science Basis’, describes the climate system and how humans are interfering with it.

This part of the report, written by the IPCC Working Group I, was released in August 2021. It examines the physical underpinning of past, present and future climate change, using over 14,000 published papers. The report concludes that humankind is ‘unequivocally’ responsible for global warming, and that we are continuing to drive the planet into a permanently altered state.

What was new in this report?

The IPCC reports summarise the available research on the topic of climate change (more on how the process works here). So we can see how the field has changed since the last report (AR5) which came out in 2014, and track new developments. This is exactly what Zero Carbon Analytics did using published sources ahead of the release of the first AR6 report.

For example, by its count, since AR5 we emitted nearly 300 billion additional tonnes of CO2, bringing us closer to the crucial Paris Agreement temperature targets. Indeed, in its 2018 special report, the IPCC predicted that the 1.5°C target would be breached between 2030 and 2052t if we did not change our trajectory. You can read the full briefing on the Zero Carbon Analytics website.

Other crucial findings include the need to rapidly reduce methane emissions alongside carbon emissions, and the fast maturity of ‘attribution science,’ being able to link global warming to changes in the Earth’s climate system. Humanity’s fingerprints are everywhere. 

IPCC Explainer: The Science of Climate Change by John Lang/eciu