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IPCC wrapping up next major climate report

A panel of the world's top climate scientists began putting the final touches on their latest comprehensive look at how global warming affects the planet.

King tide in Mill Valley, California on New Year's Day
King tide in Mill Valley, California on New Year's Day (AN/Eric Brandt)

GENEVA (AN) — A panel of the world's top climate scientists on Monday began putting the final touches on their latest comprehensive update about how rising temperatures are upending the planet's equilibrium.

The United Nations' Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change launched a 12-day mostly online session to prepare the second installment of IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, which has been years in the making and delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delegates to the session are going over the draft report line-by-line, while fielding questions and comments. Consensus among the delegates is needed to arrive at a final version.

The report "integrates more strongly natural, social and economic sciences, highlighting the role of social justice and diverse forms of knowledge such as indigenous and local knowledge," IPCC said.

"It also reflects the increasing importance of urgent and immediate action to address climate risks," it said. "The report brings more knowledge at local and regional levels and linkages between biodiversity and climate change."

The drafting of the report takes into account tens of thousands of comments from experts and governments, and it references more than 34,000 scientific papers. IPCC comprises thousands of scientists and experts from among 195 member nations.

This latest major report is due to be finished by early April, then a synthesis report is slated to follow in September.

“This is the final phase of a strict and meticulous review process of the report assessing impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change, integrated across scientific disciplines inclusive of diverse forms of knowledge,” said IPPC's chair, Hoesung Lee, a South Korean economist.

'Doping' the atmosphere

In Berlin, where some of the delegates gathered in person for the session, Germany's Education and Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger called IPCC reports the "gold standard" for understanding climate change.

The head of the World Meteorological Organization, one of two U.N. agencies that sponsor IPCC, likened fossil fuel burning to doping in sports.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas also noted his agency published a report last year showing 4.5 billion people experienced a major weather-related disaster in the past two decades.

“At the moment we have the Winter Olympic Games in China where we have high performing athletes. If you give them doping substances, then they perform even more effectively. That is what we have done to the atmosphere," Taalas told the opening of the online session.

"We have been doping the atmosphere," he said. "Our doping has been the use of fossil fuels and that has already led to an increase in disasters and their human and economic impact and biospheric impact."

The U.N. Environment Program, the other IPCC sponsor, described the scientific knowledge behind climate change as a necessary first step before analyzing how nations might best adapt.

"The growth in climate impacts," said UNEP's executive director, Inger Andersen, "is far outpacing our efforts to adapt to them."