A look at the 2023 IPCC Sixth Synthesis Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the scientific group assembled by the UN to monitor and assess all global science related to climate change, and for 35 years has been producing ‘Assessment Reports’ of knowledge on climate change, its causes, potential impacts and response options. It has also now produced six ‘Synthesis Reports’ summarising the findings from each cycle of Assessment Reports. March saw the release of the IPCC Sixth Synthesis Report- the fourth and final report of the Sixth Assessment Report Cycle (AR6), and the last Synthesis Report that will be produced before 2030. It is intended to inform the 2028 Global Stocktake by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, where countries will get together and review their progress in tackling the climate crisis.

The Synthesis Report synthesises information from all reports that have been released in the IPCC’s sixth assessment cycle since the Fifth Synthesis Report in 2014. The three assessment reports released in that time have covered the physical science of the climate crisis including observations and projections of global heating, the impacts of the climate crisis and how to adapt to them, and ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There were also three other shorter IPCC reports, on the impacts of global heating of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the effects of climate change on land, and effects on the ocean and cryosphere. By compiling all the research and findings on all of these topics, the Synthesis Report aims to provide a comprehensive overview on the state of the world’s knowledge of climate, covering all of the latest climate science.

Though the report is a condensed version of all findings from 8 years of IPCC reports, it is still nearly 8,000 pages, and it’s a difficult read, described by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as “An atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership”. Since it is a synthesis, none of the science in report is new, so it includes the warnings we have been hearing for a few years now, that the planet is reaching “irreversible” levels of warming, with catastrophic impacts becoming inevitable, and that we must take drastic action immediately to avoid disaster. It also explains in detail the devastating consequences that continually rising greenhouse gas emissions will have on the planet and people. If you don’t have time to read through 8000 pages, I’ll try to briefly summarise some of the key takeaways here.

Firstly, worryingly, the report finds that the impacts of climate change on people and ecosystems are already more widespread and extreme than anticipated, and future risks will only continue to increase with every degree of warming. Secondly, and perhaps obviously, the current global-warming of 1.1°C has caused unparalleled changes to Earth’s climate, with these climate changes now occurring in every region of the world, from vanishing sea ice to rising sea levels to extreme weather events, leading to the destruction of ecosystems, extinction of species, and loss of people’s homes, livelihoods, and even lives. Since 2008 extreme floods and storms have displaced 20 million people a year.

However, the report also focuses on hope for the future, highlighting what policies and actions can be implemented to avoid intensifying risks from further heating. While our window to address the climate crisis is closing fast, the report confirms that we can still secure a livable future if we take action now and create systemwide transformations. The most significant way to mitigate climate damage is to rapidly shift away from burning fossil fuels by shutting down fossil fuel infrastructure, investing in clean energy, and scaling up renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Other ways can include worldwide reduction of meat consumption, improvement of agricultural practises, stopping deforestation and restoring degraded land. The report also stresses that carbon removal technologies are essential, which can include sequestering and storing carbon in trees and soil, or continuing to develop technologies that are able to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Another focus is the importance of adaptation measures in creating climate resilience (though sadly some climate impacts are already so severe they cannot be adapted to). However, drastically more climate finance will be needed over the next decade to effectively scale these measures. Climate policies in at least 170 countries now consider adaptation, but many places have not progressed from planning to implementation, often due to lack of funding. One method highlighted is ecosystem-based adaptation- collaborating with indigenous peoples and local communities to develop climate adaptation measures that can also improve food security, bring economic benefits, improve health, protect biodiversity and enhance carbon sequestration. These measures include the protection, restoration and sustainable management of ecosystems, for example mangroves which naturally protect from flooding, as well sustainable agricultural practices like integrating trees into farmlands and increasing crop diversity.

How will the University be responding to the IPCC Sixth Synthesis report?

Although sobering to read, the contents of the IPCC synthesis report have come as no surprise to the HE sector. The publication of this report comes just weeks after the publication of an HE sector proposal on ‘Accelerating the UK Tertiary Education Sector towards Net Zero’ which sets out the priorities for us in mitigating and adapting to climate change. This report and proposals for developing our net zero plans were discussed by the University’s Sustainability Steering Group at the end of February and our various streams of activity in this area remain in progress.

Our target will remain as 2040 for our scope 1 and 2 emissions which is in line with the IPCC report recommendations. We are however accelerating our efforts in improving how we measure and report our emissions and in particular our scope 3 emissions. A working group has been established who will be following a sector led framework to develop a carbon accounting methodology which will inform our next steps.

However, as the IPCC synthesis report makes clear, Climate Change is now and will continue to impact the University of Kent and we need to ensure that our decision making is done through a climate lens to ensure that our campus, our buildings, our people and our practices are resilient  to the impacts of climate change.

Book Review: What Can I Do (about the climate crisis)? Jane Fonda tells you

Guest post: My name is Hannah Maple and I am a third year Psychology student. Studying this subject has expanded my interests so much. I think it’s really important to learn about the world you live in and understand how your actions influence it.

Jane Fonda is a controversial character but one of her many admirable qualities is how committed she is to elevating voices and influencing causes she is passionate about. Her most recent cause is the Climate Crisis.

Her demonstrations are called Fire Drill Fridays, whereby she and other activists rally in Washington D.C. and commit civil disobedience, risking arrest to stand up for the climate. Their website is full of content from experts on all issues climate: https://firedrillfridays.com.

In the fight to raise awareness she has written a book called “What Can I Do?”. The book outlines the issues raised at the various rallies that took place between October 2019 and January 2020. There can be a lot of confusion about what you, one individual, can do to help the climate crisis and the abundance of issues it refers to. Jane’s book ‘What Can I Do?’ outlines everything so perfectly, step by step of what causes can help and what role you can play.

On reading this book there were so many areas that I didn’t even consider being related to the climate crisis. Ignorance is bliss. But this book has certainly motivated me to get more involved in any way I can, and I just wanted to share the things I have learnt, and encourage you, if you haven’t already, to maybe have a read of Jane’s book.

Some of the issues she raised and what actionable steps we can take:

The Oceans

One of the most common areas discussed when on the topic of climate change is the ocean. The ocean absorbs so much heat as a consequence of global warming and almost half of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean so we need to protect it (https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/ocean-oxygen.html). In addition to the heating of the waters, it is well understood that many fishing practises are unsustainable and damaging to the areas in which they fish, destroying the ocean beds and habitats.

Furthermore, an area I had never heard of or considered before was the unethical employment of these fishing boats and the human trafficking practises that occur on some.

Actionable steps:

– Eat less fish.

– Use less plastic, particularly single-use plastics

– Write to officials to let them know you care about this issue and you expect them to also care.


Access to clean, safe water was recognised by the UN as a human right in 2010 (United Nations, 2010) but there are so many people that don’t have that and it’s predicted that the vital resource is going to become even more scarce. According to WWF, by 2025 it is predicted that two-thirds of the world’s population will face water shortages.

Water supplies are being polluted and others drying up. We need to protect this vital resource, needed to sustain life.

The blue communities project is working hard to support the UN Sustainable development goals (particularly, 1 No poverty, 2 Zero hunger, 3 Good health and wellbeing, and 14 Life below water). The idea is to adopt the mindset that water is a public good, “shared by everyone and is the responsibility of all”. These Blue communities are popping up all over the world. https://www.blue-communities.org/About_the_programme

Actionable steps:

– Buy less plastic water bottles, use refillable bottles.

– Avoid using hazardous house cleaners and pesticides that pollute water systems

The Money Pipeline

While movements are being made towards cleaner energy there are still expansions taking place in the fossil fuel industry and our banks are supporting them. One movement, led by students, encouraging colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel organisations has had a huge influence on the development of the fossil fuel industry. Divestment and protesting has become a serious threat to the fossil fuel industry and their ability to bring in money. This is a huge success.

Jane lists some of the big banks still investing in fossil fuels but have a look online. Greenpeace’s article: https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/barclays-banks-climate-change-fossil-fuels/

So much was covered in the book, there is no way you could summarise all of it, these are some of the other topics discussed in the book:

– Health and the climate

– War, the military and the climate

– Women and the climate

– Migration and human rights

– Jobs and a just transition

– Plastics

– Fossil fuels

Jane’s book covers a lot of issues prevalent in the US but that doesn’t mean the same isn’t happening here. The particular organisations she raises may not be applicable to us in the UK but there are many organisations here that are doing wonderful things, we just need to go out and find them. For example, Greenpeace https://www.greenpeace.org.uk.

I found Jane’s book really interesting and so inspiring. I hope you have a look https://www.waterstones.com/book/what-can-i-do/jane-fonda/9780008404581