ORNL expertise supports latest IPCC report and efforts to understand, address climate change

Improved data, models and analyses from Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists and many other researchers in the latest global climate assessment report provide new levels of certainty about what the future holds for the planet and highlight the urgency of decarbonization to avoid the most severe impacts.

The first of three sections of the Sixth Assessment Report, recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group I, incorporates nearly a decade of new knowledge about the physical science behind climate change. Key takeaways from the report, known as AR6, include evidence that the current state of the climate system and the scale of recent shifts are unprecedented over the past hundreds and even thousands of years. Human-induced climate change is impacting extreme weather around the world. Global temperatures will continue increasing until at least 2050 under all emissions scenarios considered, and droughts, hurricanes and sea-level rise will only intensify as the world warms.

One major difference from past assessments is the unequivocal statement that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. This certainty is based on improved observations and modeling capabilities, according to Forrest Hoffman, lead for ORNL’s Computational Earth Sciences group and a contributing author to the report.

“Part of the certainty comes from having better observations and more observational systems, and that we're measuring predicted changes in the real world,” Hoffman said. “Those measurements give us additional insights into the behavior of the Earth system overall. With that additional knowledge and our rapidly expanding high-performance computing capabilities, like the Summit supercomputer at ORNL, we can improve our models and their capacity to represent Earth’s past, present and future.”