'It couldn't be clearer': Norfolk expert who co-wrote UN climate report

The busy Cromer beach on the hottest day of the summer so far. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

People enjoying a heat wave on Cromer beach. Humans are "unequivocally" driving globals warming a UN report has stated. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Humans are "unequivocally" driving global warming - with the impacts of heatwaves, rising sea levels and extreme rain already being experienced around the world, a new UN report has warned.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) most recent report paints a stark picture of the impact humans are having and the future the world faces if it fails to rapidly tackle the crisis.

A total of 234 scientists from 66 countries are behind the first chapter of the IPCC's sixth report, a summary of which was released on Monday, August 9.

An empty rain gauge in a parched potato field in north Norfolk. Picture: Kit Papworth

An empty rain gauge in a parched potato field in north Norfolk. Picture: Kit Papworth - Credit: Kit Papworth

The landmark assessment, which has been described as "code-red for humanity", draws on 14,000 research papers, including the work of UEA scientists and is the first of its kind since 2013.

The report makes clear that human-caused climate change, which has pushed up global temperatures by 1.1C, is driving weather and climate extremes in every region across the world.

There are already more frequent and intense heatwaves and heavy rainstorms in many places, including northern Europe, as well as droughts and cyclones.

Northgate Street is one of the areas that will be targeted by a new project which aims to reduce sur

Northgate Street is one of the areas that will be targeted by a new project which aims to reduce surface water flooding. Photo: Bill Darnell - Credit: Archant © 2006

Humans are also very likely the main driver in the global retreat of glaciers, declines in Arctic sea ice, and rising sea levels.

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But the report, which assesses the potential impact of a range of five future scenarios from very low emissions to very high pollution, also highlights the impacts of the choices the world and individuals make now.

Temperature rises have a good chance of remaining below 1.5C in the long term if carbon emissions are cut to net-zero by 2050, followed by efforts to take more carbon dioxide out of the air than is put into the atmosphere, along with deep cuts to other greenhouse gases.

Professor Corinne Le Quere

Professor Corinne Le Quere - Credit: Archant

Professor Corinne le Quere, a report author from the UEA, said: "The message could not be clearer, as long as we continue to emit CO2 the climate will continue to warm and the weather extremes - which we now see with our own eyes - will continue to intensify.

"Thankfully we know what to do: stop emitting CO2," she said.

More offshore wind farms could be on the way for the North Sea off East Anglia

A decision on two new windfarms off Suffolk is set to be made by the end of the year or early 2022 - Credit: Jason Hawkes

'It's a call to arms'

Professor Kevin Hiscock, the head of the UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said the IPCC's report needed to be taken seriously. He said while phrases such as "code-red" were "quite alarmist" they were a "call to arms" and designed to draw the attention of governments that needed to "wake up and take action".

Prof Hiscock said the East of England was already one of the drier places in the country and would be likely to experience further droughts in the future, something agriculture would need to adapt to.

He said rising sea levels were also something Norfolk would need to adapt to and decisions on what area's of the county's coastline was protected and which were allowed to naturally protect themselves.

"To try and protect the whole coastline is not possible so we need more of the natural-based approach and those more valuable areas we should protect those, so Sheringham, Cromer, Great Yarmouth those places need protecting from rising sea levels," he said.

Prof Hiscock said everyone had a "role to play" in reducing emissions and limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C.

"We know the problem but we also know what to do to reduce increases," he said.

Key Points

Humans' role in the climate crisis is "unequivocal".  Human activity has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land - with widespread and rapid changes across the world.

- We are already feeling the effects. No region of the world is unaffected with more intense heatwaves, heavy rain and droughts happening across the planet.

 - Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for three million years. Methane concentrations are also higher than they have been for 800,000 years.

 - Temperature increases will continue. Global surface temperatures will continue to increase until at least mid-century, and the world will reach or exceed 1.5C of warming over the next 20 years.

 - Changes to ice, oceans and sea levels will be "irreversible for centuries" or even or even millennia as a result of past and future warming.

- Emissions must be cut. Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in emissions of methane will improve air quality and everything that can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions overall must happen.

15 things everyone can do to tackle climate change

  • Lobby the government and make your voice heard by those in power.
  • Eat less meat and diary
  • Reduce the number of flights you take
  • Take fewer car journeys and use public transport, walk or cycle
  • Reduce your energy use and if possible switch to more renewable forms of energy
  • Invest your money responsibly - find out where money in your pension scheme or bank is actually being invested.
  • Reduce your consumption of single-use plastics
  • Recycle where you can and repair items
  • Avoid fast fashion and buy second hand
  • Avoid food waste
  • Get involved in community groups
  • Look after green spaces, plant trees and respect the environment
  • Get informed - find out what experts are saying about the climate crisis
  • Talk about the environment to spread awareness
  • Reduce your water consumption