(KXAN) — This week marks the beginning of a virtual meeting among 200 of the world’s climate scientists who will finalize a vital report summarizing how the Earth’s climate has changed since the last report released back in 2013.
In addition to new information on how the global climate has changed, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will have details on physical science, study on impacts of the science and the mitigation of their findings. These findings are what things like the Paris Climate Accord are based on.
The two week-long meeting will end on Aug. 9 and the findings will be the sixth edition once it is released. The last installment came out in 2013 – a lifetime ago in terms of how much has changed both in climate, but also the research and tools used to study it.
There have been a plethora of weather extremes this year that have caused hundreds of deaths.
According to NPR.org, 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.
It takes years to put together the IPCC report and contains 12 chapters. The chapters cover everything from observations of atmosphere, oceans and cryosphere, to information on paleoclimate, climate change predictions and predictability.
Here are some things to be on the lookout for:
Latest climate forecast models
This newest report will be the most comprehensive, detailed and accurate one to date. The climate models used are the most advanced they’ve been since the IPCC began releasing their reports in 1988. This will include information from updated satellites and ocean buoys that take measurements from rock, ice, mud and the atmosphere.
Together, those advances allow scientists to say with more certainty how quickly the Earth is heating up, and how the extra heat being trapped by greenhouse gases will affect everything from sea levels and hurricanes to droughts and heat waves.
Multiple future scenarios
A critical goal of the forthcoming report is to help governments make decisions about how to address climate change. The report won’t tell governments what to do, but it is meant to help leaders understand the effects of different policies.
The IPCC has put together several different “worlds” in which different measures are taken at different times in future scenarios.
For instance, if humans stop burning coal immediately, it will dramatically reduce the rate of global warming. But what if humans stop burning coal in the next five years? Or ten years? Or what if solar panels get really cheap and population growth slows down? How does that affect climate change? All of these scenarios will have different results at different check points in the future, which is what the IPCC hopes to convey.
For the first time, the IPCC has come up with 5 different imaginary worlds in which different countries take on different climate policies.
According to NPR.org, for example, in one world countries work together to develop low-cost, low-carbon technologies and put them into use quickly for everyone. In another, some countries or groups of people transition very quickly to wind, solar and other clean energy sources while others move much more slowly. In a third imaginary world, nationalism surges around the world and governments focus on local energy and food security rather than global economic changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Regional information for the first time
Another first for the IPCC report will include breakdowns of regional climate science findings. This is a pivotal step from the IPCC for many countries across the globe that don’t have the resources to fund their own studies.
That leaves governments in the dark about the rate of local sea level rise, for example, or the likelihood of regional drought or extreme rain. Without localized information, it’s impossible to prioritize infrastructure and housing that’s built for the climate of the future.
Countries like the U.S. already have access to local climate data thanks to organizations like the National Climate Assessment.