The IPCC climate report is a stark warning – we need to act now

Professor Ric Williams, Chair in Ocean Sciences and Co-Lead of the Climate Futures theme at the University of Liverpool:

Yesterday, the UN’s International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) issued the first part of their sixth assessment report on global warming which provided a stark warning of the ongoing changes in the climate system and our likely future.

This IPCC Special Report – which looked at the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways – provided an unequivocal view that human activity has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. This warming is affecting many weather and climate extremes, such as heat waves, heavy rainfall and droughts.

The report also made it clear that recent climate change is unprecedented over the last centuries and many millennia. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2.0°C above pre-industrial levels will be exceeded during the 21st century unless there are deep reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Within our future climate, the ocean and land sinks of carbon will become less effective at slowing the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere as CO2 emissions increase.

The IPCC report concluded that limiting future climate change requires action to limit global cumulative CO2 emissions in order to reach at least net zero CO2, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gases – we need to act now.

Net zero carbon at University of Liverpool

At the University of Liverpool, reducing our own energy and associated carbon footprint is vitally important as a key anchor institution for the region and as an educator of the many thousands of students who pass through our doors each year.

To be a climate-resilient campus that has minimal negative and maximum positive environmental impact, our ambition is to achieve net zero carbon by 2035 – a commitment that is enshrined in our sustainability strategy.

 Tackling climate change through research and innovation

Beyond reaching net zero themselves, universities are uniquely placed to play a crucial role in tackling the climate crisis, providing solutions to specific challenges through research and innovation. To reach net zero carbon, we must harness our research expertise to develop the innovations, technologies and new knowledge that will be needed to meet this whole systems challenge – not only for the UK, but for other regions and countries around the world.

Through our Climate Futures research theme at the University of Liverpool, we are helping to address the climate crisis by harnessing our high-quality research and knowledge leadership. Our expertise spans climate science, emissions reduction, food sustainability, air quality impacts, new materials discovery, behavioural insights, risk communication, community engagement and the development of new sustainable technologies.

Working with collaborators across the globe, we are aligning these research strengths to explore the impacts of climate change, develop solutions to environmental challenges and address knowledge gaps. Our research excellence is delivering tangible impact at the global, national and local scales across climate change mitigation and adaptation, as we work collectively towards a net zero carbon future.

To learn more about the Climate Futures research theme,visit:

Professor Ric Williams has a set of papers cited in the IPCC Special Report on (i) how surface warming increases with cumulative carbon emissions and (ii) how natural carbon sinks in the ocean will become less effective in curbing rising atmospheric CO2.