On Tuesday afternoon, 24 September 2019, the 51st session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-51) adopted the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) and accepted the underlying report. Dr Nathalie Hilmi, head of the esection « Environmental economics » in the Scientific Centre of Monaco participated in the Scoping meeting, then in the draft of the report as Lead Author. During two years, she worked on the SROCC.
The SROCC was prepared by 104 authors from 36 countries, 31 of which are women, and 19 from developing countries or countries with economies in transition. The report includes over 6,981 cited references. The author team considered 31,176 comments from expert reviewers and governments in 80 countries, including 3,037 on the Final Government Draft. It was prepared under the joint leadership of Working Groups (WGs) I and II, with support from the WG II Technical Support Unit (TSU).
IPCC-51 convened from 20-24 September 2019 in Monaco and brought together more than 400 participants from over 114 countries and observer organizations. Although the meeting was initially scheduled to end on 23 September, it went through the night and concluded after 1:30 pm on the following day. The meeting was hosted by the Government of Monaco and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.
The SROCC assesses the latest scientific knowledge about the physical science basis for, and impacts of, climate change on ocean, coastal, polar, and mountain ecosystems, and the human communities that depend on them. It also evaluates their vulnerabilities and adaptation capacity, as well as options for achieving climate-resilient development pathways.
The report has some alarming messages. The global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system. As IPCC Vice-Chair Ko Barrett said during the press conference that launched the report to the public, “Water is the lifeblood of the planet” and the world’s ocean and cryosphere have been “taking the heat” from climate change for decades, with “sweeping and severe” consequences for nature and humanity. The report highlights the urgency of prioritizing action to address “unprecedented” and enduring changes in the ocean and cryosphere. It indicates that with any degree of additional warming, events that historically occurred once per century will occur every year by mid-century in many regions. Recent hurricanes in the Caribbean, for example, are a testament to this. While sea level rise is currently rising more than twice as fast now as during the 20th century and accelerating, the report notes a projected rise by 30-60 cm more by 2100 even if emissions significantly decrease and temperature rise is limited to below 2°C. This figure will be much greater if emissions continue to rise unabated. In addition, as mountain glaciers retreat, they are also altering water availability and quality downstream, with implications for many sectors, including agriculture and hydropower.
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