THE UN’s latest report on climate impacts is over three thousand pages long and sets out the grave threat that the world faces battling rising global temperatures.

But what does it all mean - and what impacts are already being felt in Scotland?

The National has picked out the important points from the IPCC report below.

READ MORE: Damning UN report sets out 'atlas of human suffering' caused by climate change

The National:

What impact is climate change having on the planet?

According to the UN, the impact on ecosystems around the world has been “widespread and pervasive”, leading to more frequent climate and weather extremes such as wildfires, flooding and storms both on land and on the ocean.

There have also been “substantial damages” caused by climate change, much of it irreversible, such as the losses to freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems.

The report adds: “The extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in previous assessments.”

The National:

What impact is climate change having on humanity?

It isn’t just the planet feeling the effect of climate change, as the UN reports increased impact on both the physical and mental health of people around the world. Death and illness caused from extreme heat, an increase in cholera, diseases emerging in new areas and increased exposure to smoke from wildfires were included in the document.

The report added that increased exposure to wildfires, atmospheric dust and allergens have been linked to “climate-sensitive cardiovascular and respiratory distress”.

And mental health in some areas is being increasingly affected as people suffer eco-anxiety and are confronted with the trauma of losing their livelihoods or homes through extreme weather events such as flooding and wildfires.

The UN also warned that climate change will “significantly increase ill health and premature deaths from the near to long-term.”

The National:

How is nature holding up?

Natural systems have suffered irreversible losses due to global warming - from the mass dying-off of corals and trees, to the first extinctions driven by climate change identified.

The Bramble Cays Melomys, an Australian rodent, was not seen after 2009 and declared extinct in 2016, thought to be caused by “increased storm surge, associated with climate change, the most probable drivers”.

Multiple systems - such as the melting of permafrost in the Arctic - are approaching “tipping points”. The impact on the Amazon rainforest from heat increases and land use changes will force irreversible loss of wildlife and natural systems.

Coastal habitats are also under threat due to unavoidable sea level rises which could also cause damage to infrastructure and livelihoods, towns, health and food and water security. An estimated 896 million people live in low lying coastal areas - expected to rise to one billion by 2050.

The National:

Is the world on course to meet the 1.5C global warming target set at COP26?

No. At the launch of the report, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said that to meet the goal of limiting global temperatures to 1.5C world emissions will have to be cut by 45% by 2030.

But crucially, Guterres said that current commitments will see emissions increase by 14% over the current decade. He called for drastic action from world leaders to reduce emissions. 

The National:

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres

What action is the UN calling for?

A lot - the move away from fossil fuels and for more focus on financing adaptation to climate change already being felt in the Global South to start. The report also suggests moving away from tree planting and instead focus should be spent on restoring damaged ecosystems, as well as addressing the causes of ecosystem loss and deforestation.

Adaptation measures range from managing upstream forests, restoring wetlands and rivers and planting trees in cities to help with “urban cooling”.

In agriculture and farming, water storage, irrigation and conserving soil moisture can benefit crops, with suggestions for nature-friendly farming to support food production and nature. Reducing food waste and moving to a plant based diet are also suggested.

However, the report warns that many natural systems are near the “hard limit” of their ability to adapt, including warm water corals and some coastal wetlands and rainforests, while society faces limits in terms of financial and technical difficulties in adapting.

It also warns against “maladaptation” where the efforts to adapt to climate change can increase risks, such as hard flood defences or sea walls which could limit space for nature and push the threat of flooding elsewhere.

Around 30-50% of the Earth’s land, ocean and freshwater areas must be conserved to maintain nature's resilience - key to helping store carbon and adapt to rising temperatures. The UN also called for more financial resources and political commitment to help with adaptation and protect the most at-risk communities.

The National:

What impact is Scotland seeing from climate change?

Scotland is already seeing the impact of rising global temperatures, with the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events likely to increase, according to a report by UK climate risk from June 2021.

Temperatures are expected to rise too, by approximately 1.1C by the 2050s if climate targets are not met. Scotland’s 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997.

Sea levels are expected to rise by between 12 and 18cm by the 2050s, thought to go as far as between 23 and 54 cm by the 2080s. According to UK climate risk, winters have been 19% wetter since 2010, and there were severe droughts felt in parts of Scotland in both the summer of 2018 and spring of 2020.

There is also the impact of numerous violent storms which have been growing in frequency. Storm Arwen impacted around 4000 hectares of woodland, for example. And, the RSPB’s 2019 State of Nature report revealed one in nine Scottish species are at risk of extinction.