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A change on the horizon: Are extreme climate scenarios really imminent?

Today, concerns about climate change have become a central issue in global discussions. Various sources, from reports by prestigious organisations to climate risk analyses in companies, have warned of extreme climate scenarios that we could face if we do not act urgently. But how true are these predictions?

In this article and accompanying video, we look at recent data indicating a slightly positive change in climate trends compared to previous predictions.

The challenge of IPCC climate scenarios

In everyday conversations and in reports, reference is often made to a frightening climate scenario: a four to six degree Celsius increase in global temperature. This is known as the “business as usual” or “if we do nothing” scenario.

In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established to promote comprehensive assessments of the state of scientific, technological and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, addressing its origins, potential impacts and coping strategies.

Since then, the IPCC has produced five detailed assessment reports, each consisting of several volumes, and is currently in its sixth assessment cycle.

Within the framework of these reports, this group of experts has projected numerous climate scenarios, classifying them into different categories. The most feared of all is the RCP 8.5 scenario, which leads to a temperature increase of up to six degrees Celsius. However, are we really following this path?

To assess whether we are heading towards RCP 8.5, it is essential to look at the data. The diagram below shows a comparison of various IPCC climate scenarios, highlighting that RCP 8.5 leads to the highest emissions and temperatures. Historical emissions are also presented in black, revealing a striking trend.

The diagram shows that, for a while, historical emissions were aligned with the RCP 8.5 scenario. However, at a specific point, emissions began to diverge, moving closer to the RCP 4.5 scenario.

This deviation has significant implications for companies’ strategies and their climate risk analyses. Companies need to adapt their climate risk analyses in terms of both physical and transition risks. Monitoring climate events is essential to adjust their action plans and roadmaps in real time.

A glimmer of hope

While climate change remains a critical challenge, recent data show us a glimmer of hope. We are not necessarily heading towards the more catastrophic climate scenario predicted in the past. This highlights the importance of collective action and the choices we make now. Let us continue to monitor, adapt our strategies and work together for a more sustainable future.