Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)

Submitted by Malin Lindgren | published 14th May 2015 | last updated 12th Jun 2015

This report is part of the larger, Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) published by the IPCC. If you wish to read more about AR5 or see the other reports featured on weADAPT, please click here. 

Introduction

The Synthesis Report (SYR) of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) provides an overview of the state of knowledge concerning the science of climate change, emphasizing new results since the publication of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) in 2007. The SYR synthesizes the main findings of the AR5 based on contributions from Working Group I (The Physical Science Basis), Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) and Working Group III (Mitigation of Climate Change), plus two additional IPCC reports (Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation and Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation).

Topic 1: Observed Changes and their Causes

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen. 

Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. The period from 1983 to 2012 was very likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 800 years in the Northern Hemisphere, where such assessment is possible (high confidence) and likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years (medium confidence). {WGI 2.4.3, 5.3.5}


Figure from IPCC Synthesis Report. Click to enlarge.

Topic 2: Future Climate Changes, Risk and Impacts

Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks.

Topic 3: Future Pathways for Adaption, Mitigation and Sustainable Development

Adaptation and mitigation are complementary strategies for reducing and managing the risks of climate change. Substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades can reduce climate risks in the 21st century and beyond, increase prospects for effective adaptation, reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation in the longer term and contribute to climate-resilient pathways for sustainable development.

There are multiple mitigation pathways that are likely to limit warming to below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels. These pathways would require substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades and near zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases by the end of the century. Implementing such reductions poses substantial technological, economic, social and institutional challenges, which increase with delays in additional mitigation and if key technologies are not available. Limiting warming to lower or higher levels involves similar challenges but on different timescales.


Image from IPCC Synthesis Report. Click to enlarge.

Topic 4: Adaptation and Mitigation

Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. Effective implementation depends on policies and cooperation at all scales and can be enhanced through integrated responses that link mitigation and adaptation with other societal objectives.

The challenges of understanding and managing risks and uncertainties are important themes in this report, and it includes information relevant to Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

Further resources

Suggested citation

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pp.