Te Whanganui-a-Tara – He Pou a Rangi Climate Change Commission will be on edge until Tuesday when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) publishes a new report on climate impacts, already occurring.
The science is clear. New Zealand is in danger of being on the wrong side of history. The report is expected to show temperatures rising more quickly than expected and long-term effects of increased CO2 in the air. Governments and key players are still slow to act on the net zero targets.
The first major IPPC report will detail how anthropogenic greenhouse gases are causing unprecedented damage.
The IPCC, which consists of 195 governments, has emerged as one of the most credible sources of climate science. Its members aggregate and agree to the best climate science available globally before publishing.
Earlier this year, the UK Met Office and World Meteorological Organisation released research demonstrating that there is more than a 40 percent chance that the annual average global temperature in at least one of the next five years will temporarily reach 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Through the Paris Agreement in 2015, the international community agreed to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2C degrees above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C.
The 1.5°C threshold is so important because beyond this, further warming will be devastating for the planet.
The IPCC report is expected to bring forward when scientists expect to reach 1.5C to the mid-2030s, at which stage tipping points such as loss of arctic sea ice, larger scale die-offs of coral reefs and thawing of the methane rich permafrost become much more likely.
Another core concept in the IPCC report is projected to be the long-term effect of increased CO2 in the air.
The Earth takes time to adjust to increases of CO2 in the air and the equilibrium climate sensitivity estimates how much the earth will warm with a doubling of the amount of CO2 in the air.
This is important because CO2 has increased from its pre-industrial level of around 280 parts per million (ppm) to an estimated 415 ppm today, with a predicted doubling of CO2 in the air around 2060.
Recent research predicts the increase in global average temperature with a doubling of CO2 in the air to between 2.6-4.5C. The difference between 1.5C short term, and between 2.6C and 4.5C longer term may seem small at first glance.
However, the difference between 1.5C, 2C, and 3C is the difference between average droughts lasting two, four or 10 months per year and the difference between 6 percent, 18 percent or 68 percent (for an increase to 4.5C) means invertebrates globally losing of their habitat.
These longer-term trends are in addition to the extreme weather being witnessed across Europe, India and the US over the past few months.
As the world has learned from the global health crisis, prevention is better than cure.