Regulations & Resources

What the latest IPCC report means for investors

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The worst effects of climate change are happening already and may be irreversible without bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero in the coming decades, the latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds.

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Average global temperatures are very likely to rise 1.5°C above preindustrial levels by 2040 and continue rising at least through midcentury, putting every region on a heading toward intensifying heatwaves, floods, drought and other extremes of weather, according to the panel, which reflects the latest scientific consensus.

The findings, which come as leaders across the world prepare to gather in in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit, underscore the need for companies and capital-markets participants to redouble their efforts to reach net-zero across their businesses and portfolios.

“The report provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades, and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach,” the panel wrote in a statement accompanying the report, which explored five scenarios ranging from a future in which society achieves net-negative emissions to one characterized by very high emissions

The panel notes that while carbon emissions cause most of the warming, other greenhouse gases – especially methane – are contributing to the rise in temperatures as well. With further warming, changes in wetness and dryness, winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans would produce increasingly damaging consequences for societies and economies in every region.

The report highlights the importance of climate disclosures that equip investors to assess the climate risks companies face. Companies that don’t begin now to take net-zero into account in developing strategic plans and priorities may be undermining the long-term resiliency of their businesses.

While the report shows that the ice melt and sea level rise caused by warming already are likely to take anywhere from hundreds to thousands of years to reverse, it also shows that it’s still possible to arrest the rise in average temperatures, but only if countries, companies and people act immediately to reduce emissions to net-zero before midcentury.

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Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, Summary for Policymakers. The IPCC’s summary of the latest scientific consensus on the physical risks of climate change.