The recent publication, on 27 February 2022, of the second instalment to the Sixth Assessment Report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC“) did not receive the same degree of attention as the first instalment in August 2021. The findings, and message, of the second instalment, are no less severe, or potentially consequential, however, delivering as it does, the “bleakest warning yet” of the impacts of climate change.
The first instalment, developed by the IPCC’s Working Group I, focused on the physical science basis of climate change. The second instalment, developed by the IPCC’s Working Group II, assesses the impacts of climate change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities at global and regional levels.
The findings of the IPCC are, of course, deeply troubling in many respects, and the implications of those findings are likely to be extensive. One area in which those implications are likely to be felt is that of climate litigation. As explored in our previous article, the science based findings of the IPCC have played a role in affirming international legal standards on climate change and establishing the link between emissions and climate change, thereby – in some respects – strengthening the cases of climate litigants who may previously have encountered difficulties in establishing causation. The ever-increasing urgency of the climate crisis, and the willingness – and ability – of stakeholders to use litigation to compel action to address that crisis, will continue to be features of the landscape as attention focuses on the IPCC’s findings.