These are the key findings of the IPCC climate report — region by region
From droughts to flooding, every region of the planet is experiencing different consequences from the climate crisis, but no part is spared.
Image credit: IPCC / Alisa Singer
In the new report, climate experts grouped under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) looked at the already visible and the upcoming climate effects, likely to soon aggravate as temperature rises.
The report shows that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900, and finds that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming. This is based on observational datasets to assess historical level of warming.
The report projects that in the coming decades, temperatures will continue to increase in all regions. For 1.5°C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health, the report shows.
Global surface temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period over the past 2,000 years, and this is “already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe”. Whether it’s heatwaves like now in Greece or floods like those in Germany, their attribution to human influence “has strengthened” over the past decade.
But not every region is affected the same way. To understand this variation better, the report included information on how each part of the world will be affected by climate change. Let’s take a look at some of the main regions.
North and Central America
Both regions are projected to face severe effects of climate change.
Temperatures will rise by more than the global average, and this is attributable to human influence. Under all future scenarios and global warming levels, temperatures and extreme high temperatures are expected to continue to increase. Tropical cyclones, severe storms and dust storms are expected to become more extreme.
Relative sea-level rise is projected to increase along most coasts and will cause increased coastal flooding and erosion. Ocean acidification (along the coasts) and marine heatwaves are projected to increase in intensity and duration, while strong declines in glaciers, permafrost and snow cover are observed and will continue.
Regardless of future levels of global warming, temperatures will rise in all European areas at a rate exceeding global mean temperature changes — something similar to previous estimates. The frequency and intensity of heatwaves increased in recent decades and are projected to keep increasing.
Relative sea level will rise in all European areas except the Baltic Sea, at a rate close to or exceeding global mean sea level. Changes are projected to continue beyond 2100. Extreme sea-level events will become more frequent and more intense, leading to more coastal flooding. Shorelines will retreat throughout the 21st century.
Strong declines in glaciers, permafrost, snow cover extent, and snow seasonal duration at high latitudes/altitudes are observed and will continue in a warming world. The frequency of cold spells and frost days will decrease under all the greenhouse gas emissions scenarios and all time horizons, similar to past observations.
The IPCC found that temperatures have very likely increased in all subregions of Latin America and will continue to do so at rates faster than the global average. The mean precipitation rate is also projected to change, with increases expected in North-West and South-East South America and decreases in North-East and South-West South America.
Over the last three decades, the sea level has increased at a higher rate than the global mean in the South Atlantic and the subtropical North Atlantic, and at a lower rate in the East Pacific. This is expected to continue, contributing to increased coastal flooding in low-lying areas and shoreline retreat along most sandy coasts, the IPCC said.
Glacier loss and permafrost thawing will likely continue in the Andes Mountain range under all greenhouse gas emissions scenarios in the report, causing important reductions in river flow and high-magnitude glacial lake outbursts. Aridity, and agricultural drought are also expected to accelerate in several countries.
The rate of surface temperature increase has generally been more rapid in Africa than the global average, with human-induced climate change being the dominant driver. Observed increases in hot extremes (including heatwaves) and decreases in cold extremes (including cold waves) are projected to continue throughout the century.
Marine heatwaves have become more frequent since the 20th century and are projected to increase. Relative sea level has increased at a higher rate than global mean sea level around Africa over the last three decades. This is likely to continue, contributing to increases in the frequency and severity of coastal flooding in low-lying areas.
Heat extremes have increased while cold extremes have decreased in Asia, and these trends will continue over the coming decades. Marine heatwaves will continue to increase, while fire weather seasons will lengthen and intensify, especially in North Asia. Average and heavy precipitation will increase over much of Asia.
Glaciers are declining and permafrost is thawing. Seasonal snow duration, glacial mass, and permafrost area will decline further by mid-century. Glacier runoff in the Asian high mountains will increase up to mid-21st century and subsequently runoff may decrease. Relative sea-level around Asia has increased faster than the global average.
Warming will continue in the 21st century for all global warming levels and future emissions scenarios, further increasing heat extremes and heat stress. Small islands will face more intense but generally fewer tropical cyclones, except in the central north Pacific where frequency will increase. Ocean acidification will further increase.
Sea levels will very likely continue to rise around small islands, more so with higher emissions and over longer time periods. Coupled with storm surges and waves, this will exacerbate coastal inundation and the potential for increased saltwater intrusion into aquifers. Shorelines will retreat along the sandy coasts of most small islands.
Annual mean surface air temperatures and precipitation will continue to increase during the 21st century under all assessed emissions scenarios in both Polar regions. Mean precipitation and precipitation intensity will increase. The Arctic will be dominated by rainfall and in Antarctica rainfall will increase over the coastal regions
Glaciers have lost mass in all polar regions since 2000 and will continue to lose mass at least for several decades, even if global temperature is stabilized. Both major ice sheets – Greenland and Antarctica – have been losing mass since at least 1990, with the highest loss rate during 2010–2019, and this is projected to continue.
Fermin Koop, August 2021