We truly are heading into climate territory uncharted in human history

The need for urgent global action on greenhouse gas emissions is crystal clear

Unless there are immediate, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees will be beyond reach.  Photograph: Getty Images

Unless there are immediate, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees will be beyond reach. Photograph: Getty Images

Every seven or so years the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) undertakes a comprehensive synthesis and assessment of the scientific literature to produce a series of reports on climate science. The first of these, on the physical science basis, was published this week. Two subsequent reports on impacts and adaptation, and on mitigation will follow in early 2022.

This massive endeavour permits a holistic and comprehensive snapshot of the state of our collective scientific knowledge in a manner that is perhaps unique in any field of science. Robustness is assured through multiple rounds of review and the careful selection of broad author teams. The summary for policy-makers is then signed off word by word by government delegations who can suggest wording changes. However, final acceptance rests with the authors.

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