Antarctic climate change and the environment: a decadal synopsis and recommendations for action

Scientific evidence is abundantly clear and convincing that due to the current trajectory of human-derived emissions of CO₂ and other greenhouse gases, the atmosphere and ocean will continue to warm, the ocean will continue to acidify, atmospheric and ocean circulation patterns will be altered, the cryosphere will continue to lose ice in all forms, and sea level will rise.

While uncertainties remain about various aspects of the Earth System, what is known is beyond dispute. The trends, based on observations and confirmed by modelling, will accelerate if high rates of CO₂ and other greenhouse gas emissions continue.

The IPCC AR6 WGII Summary for Policymakers (SPM D.5.3) unambiguously emphasises this conclusion: The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.

Human influence on the climate is clear, with observed changes in the climate and in greenhouse gas concentrations unequivocally attributable to human activities.

Human-induced climate change has caused extensive negative impacts, including losses to people and to nature, some of which are irreversible, such as the extinction of species.

Climate change is increasingly exacerbating the impact of other human-caused effects on nature and human well-being, and the impacts are expected to grow with increasing climate change magnitude.

Observations, modelling and global assessments describe significant changes in Antarctic physical and living systems, both marine and terrestrial.

Changes in Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments are linked to and influence climate impact drivers globally.

The most significant potential influence of Antarctica’s changes will be on global mean sea level change and its influence on society and nature in all coastal regions of the globe.

Further global impacts influenced by Antarctic change include extreme climate and weather events, droughts, wildfires and floods, and ocean acidification. These impacts cause ecosystem disruption and loss of biodiversity beyond the Antarctic region.

Chown S.L., Leihy R.I., Naish T.R., Brooks C.M., Convey P., Henley B.J., Mackintosh A.N., Phillips L.M., Kennicutt M.C. II & Grant S.M., 2022. Antarctic climate change and the environment: a decadal synopsis and recommendations for action. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Report.

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