THE Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, released last August 9, 2021 the first installment of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed in 2022.

The IPCC said that many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion, such as continued sea level rise, are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.

It is not too late. The report shows that human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate. A strong and sustained reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) would limit climate change. But the IPCC also warns that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in GHG, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.

The report projects that in the coming decades, climate changes will increase in all regions. For 1.5°C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health.

Climate change is bringing multiple different changes in different regions.Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions. It is also affecting rainfall patterns. In high latitudes, precipitation is likely to increase, while it is projected to decrease over large parts of the subtropics. Changes to monsoon precipitation are expected, which will vary by region.

Coastal areas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.

Further warming will amplify permafrost thawing, and the loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic sea ice. Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them, and they will continue throughout at least the rest of this century.

Reacting to this report, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said the Philippines has committed to the Paris Agreement the reduction and avoidance of 75% of GHG emissions from 2020 to 2030. The Philippines only has a very small contribution to the world’s GHG emission, so the more important focus should be on adaptation since we are one of the countries that will be most affected by climate change. The Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction, chaired by the DENR, has committed to strengthening the Philippines’ response to climate change.