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Five Big Findings from the 2023 IPCC Report on Climate Change

Five Big Findings from the 2023 IPCC Report on Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world’s leading authority on climate change. Today, the IPCC released a comprehensive report on the state of the earth’s climate. The report contained crucial information on the current state of the climate and its projected future. 

The synthesis report summarized findings from three expert assessments published between 2021 and 2022 that looked at the physical science, impacts, and mitigation of climate change. According to the IPCC, emissions must be halved by the mid-2030s if the world is to have any chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels – a key target enshrined in the Paris climate accord.


The findings of the report are alarming, with evidence pointing to unprecedented climate changes caused by human activities. This article will explore the five most important findings from the 2023 IPCC report on climate change, highlighting the need for immediate and concerted action to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of global warming.



1. The Earth’s temperature is rising at an unprecedented rate

Already, with 1.1 degrees C (2 degrees F) of global temperature rise, changes to the climate system that are unparalleled over centuries to millennia are now occurring in every region of the world, from rising sea levels to more extreme weather events to rapidly disappearing sea ice.

Additional warming will increase the magnitude of these changes. Every 0.5 degree C (0.9 degrees F) of global temperature rise, for example, will cause clearly discernible increases in the frequency and severity of heat extremes, heavy rainfall events and regional droughts. Similarly, heatwaves that, on average, arose once every 10 years in a climate with little human influence will likely occur 4.1 times more frequently with 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) of warming, 5.6 times with 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and 9.4 times with 4 degrees C (7.2 degrees F) — and the intensity of these heatwaves will also increase by 1.9 degrees C (3.4 degrees F), 2.6 degrees C (4.7 degrees F) and 5.1 degrees C (9.2 degrees F) respectively.

Rising global temperatures also heighten the probability of reaching dangerous tipping points in the climate system that, once crossed, can trigger self-amplifying feedbacks that further increase global warming, such as thawing permafrost or massive forest dieback. Setting such reinforcing feedbacks in motion can also lead to other substantial, abrupt and irreversible changes to the climate system. Should warming reach between 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F), for example, the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets could melt almost completely and irreversibly over many thousands of years, causing sea levels to rise by several meters

2. Adaptation measures can effectively build resilience, but more finance is needed to scale solutions.

Climate policies in at least 170 countries now consider adaptation, but in many nations, these efforts have yet to progress from planning to implementation. Measures to build resilience are still largely small-scale, reactive and incremental, with most focusing on immediate impacts or near-term risks. This disparity between today’s levels of adaptation and those required persists in large part due to limited finance. According to the IPCC, developing countries alone will need $127 billion per year by 2030 and $295 billion per year by 2050 to adapt to climate change. But funds for adaptation reached just $23 billion to $46 billion from 2017 to 2018, accounting for only 4% to 8% of tracked climate finance.

The good news is that there are solutions that can help us adapt to climate change. One of these solutions is called ecosystem-based adaptation. This means protecting and restoring ecosystems like forests, wetlands, and oceans. By doing this, we can help communities that are already being affected by climate change. It can also help us in other ways, like improving our health, making sure we have enough food, and even helping to reduce the amount of carbon in the air.

The best part is that ecosystem-based adaptation doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. We can start doing things like planting more trees on farms and using more sustainable farming practices. It’s also important to work with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to make sure these solutions work for everyone

3. Some climate impacts are already so severe they cannot be adapted to, leading to losses and damages.

Around the world, highly vulnerable people and ecosystems are already struggling to adapt to climate change impacts. For some, these limits are “soft” — effective adaptation measures exist, but economic, political and social obstacles constrain implementation, such as lack of technical support or inadequate funding that does not reach the communities where it’s needed most. But in other regions, people and ecosystems already face or are fast approaching “hard” limits to adaptation, where climate impacts from 1.1 degrees C (2 degrees F) of global warming are becoming so frequent and severe that no existing adaptation strategies can fully avoid losses and damages. Coastal communities in the tropics, for example, have seen entire coral reef systems that once supported their livelihoods and food security experience widespread mortality, while rising sea levels have forced other low-lying neighborhoods to move to higher ground and abandon cultural sites. 

These problems are only going to get worse as the world gets hotter. When the temperature goes up by just a few degrees, places that rely on snow and ice will run out of water. Places that grow a lot of corn will have a hard time producing enough food. And in some parts of Europe, it will get so hot that people will get sick.

We need to act fast to stop these problems from getting worse. At a big meeting called COP27, countries agreed to set up a special fund to help people who are suffering because of climate change. This is a big step forward, but we still need to figure out how to make sure the money goes to the right people and is enough to help them

4. Climate change — as well as our collective efforts to adapt to and mitigate it — will exacerbate inequity should we fail to ensure a just transition.  

Households with incomes in the top 10%, including a relatively large share in developed countries, emit upwards of 45% of the world’s GHGs, while those families earning in the bottom 50% account for 15% at most. Yet the effects of climate change already — and will continue to — hit poorer, historically marginalized communities the hardest.

Today, between 3.3 billion and 3.6 billion people live in countries that are highly vulnerable to climate impacts, with global hotspots concentrated in the Arctic, Central and South America, Small Island Developing states, South Asia and much of sub-Saharan Africa. Across many countries in these regions, conflict, existing inequalities and development challenges (e.g., poverty and limited access to basic services like clean water) not only heighten sensitivity to climate hazards, but also limit communities’ capacity to adapt.  Mortality from storms, floods and droughts, for instance, was 15 times higher in countries with high vulnerability to climate change than in those with very low vulnerability from 2010 to 2020.

At the same time, efforts to mitigate climate change also risk disruptive changes and exacerbating inequity. Retiring coal-fired power plants, for instance, may displace workers, harm local economies and reconfigure the social fabric of communities, while inappropriately implemented efforts to halt deforestation could heighten poverty and intensify food insecurity. And certain climate policies, such as carbon taxes that raise the cost of emissions-intensive goods like gasoline, can also prove to be regressive, absent of efforts to recycle the revenues raised from these taxes back into programs that benefit low-income communities.

Fortunately, the IPCC identifies a range of measures that can support a just transition and help ensure that no one is left behind as the world moves toward a net-zero-emissions, climate-resilient future. Reconfiguring social protection programs (e.g., cash transfers, public works programs and social safety nets) to include adaptation, for example, can reduce communities’ vulnerability to a wide range of future climate impacts, while strengthening justice and equity. Such programs are particularly effective when paired with efforts to expand access to infrastructure and basic services.

Similarly, policymakers can design mitigation strategies to better distribute the costs and benefits of reducing GHG emissions. Governments can pair efforts to phase out coal-fired electricity generation, for instance, with subsidized job retraining programs that support workers in developing the skills needed to secure new, high-quality jobs. Or, in another example, officials can couple policy interventions dedicated to expanding access to public transit with interventions to improve access to nearby, affordable housing.

Across both mitigation and adaptation measures, inclusive, transparent and participatory decision-making processes will play a central role in ensuring a just transition. More specifically, these forums can help cultivate public trust, deepen public support for transformative climate action and avoid unintended consequences.

7. We also need urgent, systemwide transformations to secure a net-zero, climate-resilient future.

While fossil fuels are the number one source of GHG emissions, deep emission cuts are necessary across all of society to combat the climate crisis. Power generation, buildings, industry, and transport are responsible for close to 80% of global emissions while agriculture, forestry and other land uses account for the remainder.

Take the transport system, for instance. Drastically cutting emissions will require urban planning that minimizes the need for travel, as well as the build-out of shared, public and nonmotorized transport, such as rapid transit and bicycling in cities. Such a transformation will also entail increasing the supply of electric passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles and buses, coupled with wide-scale installation of rapid-charging infrastructure, investments in zero-carbon fuels for shipping and aviation and more.

Policy measures that make these changes less disruptive can help accelerate needed transitions, such as subsidizing zero-carbon technologies and taxing high-emissions technologies like fossil-fueled cars. Infrastructure design — like reallocating street space for sidewalks or bike lanes — can help people transition to lower-emissions lifestyles. It is important to note there are many co-benefits that accompany these transformations, too. Minimizing the number of passenger vehicles on the road, in this example, reduces harmful local air pollution and cuts traffic-related crashes and deaths.


There are multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now, said scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
report released today. “Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages form nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”

Clear way ahead

The solution lies in climate resilient development. This involves integrating measures to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in ways that provide
wider benefits.

For example: access to clean energy and technologies improves health, especially for women and children; low-carbon electrification, walking, cycling and public transport enhance air quality, improve health, employment opportunities and deliver equity. The economic benefits for people’s health from air quality improvements alone would be roughly the same, or possibly even larger than the costs of reducing or avoiding emissions. 

Climate resilient development becomes progressively more challenging with every increment of warming. This is why the choices made in the next few years will play a critical role in deciding our future and that of generations to come. To be effective, these choices need to be rooted in our diverse values, worldviews and knowledges, including scientific knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge and local knowledge. This approach will facilitate climate resilient development and allow locally appropriate, socially acceptable solutions

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