10 November 2023
Major new report confirms just 2°C of warming will trigger irreversible global damage from loss of Earth’s ice
State of the Cryosphere Report shows that 2°C of warming will lead to catastrophic loss of Earth’s ice sheets, mountain glaciers and snow, sea ice, and permafrost.
Advances in cryosphere science research since the 2015 Paris Agreement confirm that 1.5°C is not merely preferable to 2°C – it is the only option.
Leading cryosphere scientists warn of severe and irreversible consequences for millions of people, societies, and nature, and call for the phase out of fossil fuels and financial mechanisms to finance climate action.
Major report calls on global leaders to take 2°C off the table, defining Paris Agreement “well below 2°C” as meaning 1.5°C alone in COP28 Cover Decision.
Stockholm, Sweden, November 16 – The International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) today published its annual State of the Cryosphere Report which warns that even 2°C – the “upper” Paris Agreement temperature limit – will lead to catastrophic global damage from loss of ice sheets, mountain glaciers and snow, sea ice, permafrost, and in polar oceans.
The State of the Cryosphere 2023 – Two Degrees is Too High takes the pulse of the cryosphere by updating the latest science and highlighting the global impacts from changes in the cryosphere.
Reviewed and supported by over 60 leading cryosphere scientists, the report shows that all of the Earth’s frozen parts will experience irreversible damage at 2°C of global warming, with disastrous consequences for millions of people, societies, and nature.
Key findings in the report on the impact of 2°C of warming include:
Ice sheets: nearly all of Greenland, much of West Antarctica, and even vulnerable portions of East Antarctica will be triggered to very long-term, inexorable sea-level rise.
Glaciers: extensive, irreversible ice loss from the world’s glaciers in many major river basins, with some disappearing entirely. As glaciers melt, risks of catastrophic events such as landslides, sudden ice shears, and glacial lake outburst floods increase.
Sea ice: extensive sea ice loss at both poles, with severe feedbacks to global weather and climate. By 2°C, the Arctic Ocean will be sea ice-free in summer every year, potentially for several months.
Permafrost: extensive permafrost thaw and resulting greenhouse gas emissions will cause temperatures to continue to rise, even once human emissions reach zero. At 2°C, annual total permafrost emissions (both CO2 and methane) would total the size of the entire European Union’s emissions from 2019.
Polar ocean acidification: year-round, permanent corrosive ocean acidification conditions in many regions of Earth’s polar and near-polar seas. Shell-building animals, and commercial fisheries that rely on them in the food chain may not survive.
In response to the Report, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister, Iceland, said: “From the Cryosphere point of view, 1.5°C is not simply preferable to 2°C or higher. It is the only option. At COP28, we need a frank Global Stocktake, and fresh urgency especially due to what we have learned about Cryosphere feedbacks, worsening for each additional tenth of a degree in temperature rise. We need tangible results, and clear guidelines to phase out fossil fuels and for financial mechanisms to finance climate action.”
Professor Julie Brigham-Grette, University of Massachusetts Amherst, said: “Our message is that this insanity cannot and must not continue. COP28, and December 2023, must be when we correct course. Otherwise, world leaders are de facto deciding to burden humanity for centuries to millennia by displacing hundreds of millions of people from flooding coastal settlements; depriving societies of life-giving freshwater resources, disrupting delicately-balanced polar ocean ecosystems; and forcing future generations to offset long-term permafrost emissions.”
Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, Director General, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), said: “The Hindu Kush Himalaya is at the epicentre of the global cryosphere crisis with our glaciers, snow, and permafrost already undergoing unprecedented and irreversible changes. These changes are upending the lives of mountain communities by increasing uncertainty in the timing, availability, and seasonal distribution of mountain water resources, threatening water, food, and energy security. The State of the Cryosphere Report is a warning to global leaders that inaction at COP28 will be disastrous.”
The publication of the State of the Cryosphere Report comes at a critical time before the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP28) which is taking place in Dubai from 30 November 2023 - 12 December 2023. The Report’s Foreword calls on global leaders to enshrine the commitment to “1.5°C alone” in the Cover Decision because 2°C is too high for the cryosphere. Cryosphere scientists last week launched “Call for the Cryosphere”, a parallel global campaign, at the One Planet Polar Summit in Paris. The “Call” urges global leaders to agree on guidelines to make 1.5°C a reality; a path to phase out fossil fuels; and financial mechanisms to support climate action; as well as the adaptation to, and loss and damage from, climate change.
“2023 has been a year of climate disasters and ice loss, which has underlined the urgent need for global leaders to recognise that two degrees is too high for Earth’s cryosphere,” concluded Pam Pearson, Director of ICCI. “Today’s landmark report shows that we need to take 2°C off the table.”?
Notes to editors
About the State of the Cryosphere 2023 Report
Dropbox download links:
The full embargoed report can be accessed here: LINK
Imagery is available here: LINK
Graphics available here: LINK
Graphic material can be freely used but should credit either the Report, or the original caption and credit as this appears in the Report, where appropriate.