The UN’s latest climate change report is clear: we must act fact to avoid catastrophic impacts

IPCC Sixth Assessment Report

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations’ chief climate science body, confirms that we are not on track to secure a climate-resilient, livable future. It provides the most in-depth assessment yet of the impacts of climate change, our vulnerabilities to it, and our efforts to adapt thus far. Keep reading for our climate experts’ key takeaways on some of the report’s most significant — and sobering — findings in several critical areas: climate finance, oceans, food, equity, urban areas, and governance.


This report, the second major installment in the IPCC’s current assessment cycle, paints a somber picture of the widespread and severe climate impacts that our planet — and all of the humans, animals, and other species who live here — are already experiencing. Not only does the report confirm that climate change has had an adverse impact on billions of people around the world — and none more so than marginalized communities — but some species and ecosystems have suffered irreversible losses, especially those people and natural systems affected by melting glaciers and rising sea levels.

The report further finds that the world has not acted at anywhere near the pace and scale needed to meaningfully adapt to current and future impacts of climate change. While the report finds that adaptation efforts can be extremely effective in minimizing climate-fueled impacts and damages, they are not being implemented quickly or widely enough. The IPCC also outlines options for adaptation, underlining ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) in particular as a highly impactful strategy that can help people and nature cope with the impacts of climate change while also reducing current and future risk. (EbA is a set of strategies that use natural ecosystems, such as restoring mangroves to protect coastal areas from storm surge, to both benefit nature and protect people.)

This report also contains regional chapters for the first time, and the IPCC produced accompanying regional fact sheets to give people even more tools to understand how the climate is affecting their corner of the world. The science in this report has implications for all of the natural world, from individual species to entire ecosystems. Our climate experts have unpacked several of the key findings for climate finance, oceans, food, equity, urban areas, and governance and lay out what we can — and must — do in light of their implications.


The findings: Climate change has had severe and lasting impacts on the ocean, many of which will persist for decades. Impacts include widespread and increasingly irreversible destruction of marine ecosystems. The ocean also faces more intense tropical cyclones, more rapid sea level rise, and ocean acidification. Impacts to the ocean are expected to worsen. For instance, at 1.5°C of warming above preindustrial levels, 70-90% of tropical coral reefs are expected to disappear; at 2°C of warming, over 99% of coral reefs could be gone.

The implications: Both coastal communities and marine ecosystems will face irreversible impacts from climate change, including loss of coastal habitats, ecosystems, and infrastructure. Warming and ocean acidification have already negatively affected water, energy, food, and nutrition security. Long-term risks from sea level rise for coastal ecosystems, people, and infrastructure are expected to increase substantially.

A teenage boy stands on a seawall that protects his family home from the rising seas in Jenrock village in the Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Photo: Vlad Sokhin/ UNICEF

The response: Governments must act quickly to implement policies that limit warming to 1.5°C in order to limit the severity of climate impacts on the ocean and on the people and communities that depend on it. In addition to cutting emissions, governments must act now to prepare for sea level rise, ocean acidification, and other impacts that will continue for decades. Such measures include ensuring that future coastal development and infrastructure planning account for increasing sea levels and more frequent weather events.

For more information, see the report’s Chapter 3: Ocean and coastal ecosystems and their services


The findings: Heat waves, droughts, floods, and ocean acidification threaten the food security and nutrition of millions of people, particularly in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and small islands. In the future, intensifying climate change impacts will put even more pressure on food production systems, further undermining food security.

Efforts required for food systems to adapt to climate change have a higher chance of success if implemented within the next 10 years. Peril to global food and agriculture systems will sharply increase as temperatures rise, with clear adaptation limits. At 2°C of warming, for instance, multiple staple crops in tropical regions will no longer be able to adapt as effectively as they do now. Meanwhile, at 2°C of warming, more people in Africa, Asia, Central America, and small islands are likely to experience malnutrition, and after 2050, if emissions continue unchecked, food availability will decline due to potential widespread crop failure and decreased fisheries and livestock.

United Nations Foundation, 4 March 2022. Full article.

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