Earth's climate is getting so hot that temperatures in about a decade will probably blow past a level of warming that world leaders have sought to prevent, according to a report released Monday that the United Nations calls a "code red for humanity."
Report co-author Linda Mearns of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research says she sees nowhere that will be safe from climate change. Still, scientists also eased back a bit on the likelihood of the absolute worst climate catastrophes.
"This report is a reality check," said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte. "We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare."
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report says that some of the climate changes already observed by researchers, including concerning sea level rise, are "irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years."
The report also says that extreme weather conditions, including intense heatwaves and "flooding from heavy precipitation events," will continue to be amplified. Coastal cities will also see continued "frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion."
"Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming," said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai.
While some changes are already irreversible, the report indicates that governments can take certain actions in the immediate future to curtail disaster.
"The evidence is clear that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of climate change, even as other greenhouse gases and air pollutants also affect the climate," the IPCC said in a press release.
"Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate," Zhai said.