COP27 represents a key moment in the climate crisis, as governments return to improve their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), having recognized that the pledges made at Glasgow remain insufficient to keep 1.5°C within reach. New cryosphere and climate science research – much of it completed since the Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere (2019), and even the IPCC AR6 Working Group 1 Report – makes it clear that even limited overshoot of the Paris Agreement temperature limit of 1.5°C will cause a number of irreversible global changes due to the physical cryosphere response. Some of these will be immediate (sea ice); others slow to manifest (sea-level rise) yet well beyond the limits of human and ecosystem adaptation.COP27 represents a key opportunity to make the global impact of overshoot from cryosphere abundantly clear, even in a country like Egypt that might appear to be very far from cryosphere influences. For example, the Nile arises from some of Africa’s last remaining glaciers, the Rwenzori; and few nations have such an arresting vulnerability to even moderate levels of sea-level rise. Just one meter inundates parts of the fertile Nile Delta, making the ancient city of Alexandria essentially an island. By 10 meters, a level that some newer research indicates may occur by the end of the next century if today’s emissions levels continue, the Mediterranean has essentially reached Cairo. Related saltwater incursion will erase any possibility of domestic food security for Egypt’s 100+ million for many millennia.At the other end of the spectrum, mountain-dependent regions from Nepal and Norway to the western U.S. and China already endure the impacts of shrinking glaciers and snowpack on their own water supplies today, with outburst flooding and avalanches during the melt season threatening those downstream. Thawing permafrost – with emissions already on the scale of a top-10 emitter (Japan) at 1.2°C – may become the single largest source of carbon emissions on the planet by 2°C, even should human emissions decrease. In an intersection with the Oceans agenda, polar and high-latitude ocean acidification and other changes similarly have global impacts on vital fisheries (cod, krill, salmon) and global ocean currents.In concert with the global threats from cryosphere degradation and follow-on to the pledges made in the Glasgow Pact, the COP27 Cryosphere Pavilion will focus on the implications for timing and scale of implementation, especially impacts of overshoot; and will serve as a strategy center for those Parties and Observers concerned with the Cryosphere agenda, particularly mountain and low-lying nations and regions. COP27 will also see the release of the second State of the Cryosphere Report, with important scientific updates and summaries to feed into policy processes, especially the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.
Cryosphere Pavilion Side Events
The COP27 Pavilion provided a place for permanent exhibits, cultural events, and ministerial-level events; as well as informational side events based on the UNFCCC side event model. The COP27 Pavilion also had a strong virtual element, connecting the COP with policymakers, scientists and the general public worldwide.
Pavilion Focus Days: The program of the COP27 Cryosphere Pavilion included one or more specific focus days for each of the following topics, with targeted side events (six, 90-minute slots per day), including ministerial-level speeches and strong Youth and Indigenous participation:
Implementation to Avert Overshoot: Pathways to Emissions Reductions. This day will focus on those pathways or implementation efforts that present feasible options to prevent global impacts from cryosphere, with a narrowing window for action.
Mountains: Glaciers and Snow: Centuries of Impacts on Water Resources. Mid-latitude glaciers suffer nearly total loss at overshoot above 2°C, but may preserve some basis for re-growth and restoration of water and other ecosystem services at 1.5°C. However, mountain-dependent regions will face many centuries or thousands of years for restoration. Two days will focus exclusively on the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, on which at least 2.5 billion people depend for water-related needs and ecosystem services.
Polar Oceans: Long-tailed Legacy of Acidification, Warming and Freshening. Polar oceans and high latitude seas already show fisheries and shell impacts today because these colder waters absorb CO2 more quickly. Those impacts will be greater still with overshoot of CO2 concentrations above 450ppm. Warming, freshening and invasion by low latitude species all only add stress towards (in worst-case emissions) a mass extinction event.
Ice Sheets: Overshoot Thresholds for Irreversible Sea-level Rise. The WAIS and its collapse will causes 4-6m of sea-level rise over time, and may already have passed that point even today; but chances of slowing or preventing that collapse are far better without overshoot of 1.5°C. In Earth’s past, even 2°C has resulted in 12-20 meters of sea-level rise, potentially triggered by overshoot and that may not be reversible with later Paris implementation.
Permafrost: Centuries of Carbon Emissions from Overshoot. Permafrost carbon emissions drive some degree of global warming. Those emissions are increasing: they are already on the order of Japan’s. Overshoot to 3-4°C will introduce a “permafrost contribution” closer to that of China or the U.S. today, lasting 100-200 years and necessitating generations of negative emissions well after anthropogenic emissions cease.
Absent Arctic Summer Sea Ice: Global Feedbacks. Ice-free summers will still occur within the 1.5°C limit; but with even slight overshoot to 1.7°C, this is projected to become an annual phenomenon. Increasing ice-free summer conditions will cause global feedbacks, including increased permafrost thaw, rising Greenland ice loss and sea-level rise; and damage to Arctic food chains dependent on thick, multi-year ice.
Evening Cultural Events: The Cryosphere Pavilion regularly hosted evening cultural events, pairing for example cryosphere and low-lying nations; and providing an opportunity for both virtual viewing and accredited participants to mingle and find some respite from the negotiations.
Financial Support for the COP27 Pavilion
ICCI is still seeking diverse and strong support from a variety of government, multilateral, academic and private foundation partners, both for the Pavilion build itself, and in support of its various programmes such as the Early Career Scientist volunteers. Current and past Pavilion financial support includes, with thanks:
Countries/Multilateral: Nordic Council of Ministers, Switzerland, Scotland, France, Chile, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
Academic, and Private Foundations: Bolin Centre for Climate Research/Stockholm University, Swedish Post Code Lottery, Give One Foundation, Karuna Foundation, Woodwell Climate Research Center.In addition, over 70 academic institutions have participated in past Pavilions with participants and in-kind support. These include: Grantham Institute at Imperial College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Climate Analytics (Germany), INACH (Chile), Plymouth National Laboratory (UK), Antarctic Research Centre, University of Wellington (New Zealand), National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC, U.S.), St. Andrews University (Scotland), Bristol University Glaciology Centre, East China Normal University, Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), University of Oslo, Woodwell Climate Research Center, Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR), Arctic Council (AMAP, ACAP Working Groups).
If you have any questions, please reach out to:
International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (U.S)
International Cryosphere Climate Initiative-Europe (Sweden)
ICCI Outreach Director
ICCI Communications Assistant
Pavilion Logistics and ECS Coordinator