(ORDO NEWS) — The latest IPCC climate report warns that rising greenhouse gas emissions could soon exceed the ability of many communities to adapt.
The negative effects of climate change are accelerating much faster than scientists predicted less than a decade ago, according to the latest report from the UN climate group.
Many of the consequences are inevitable and will hit the world’s most vulnerable people hardest, the report warns, but collective action by governments to curb greenhouse gas emissions and prepare populations for global warming could prevent the worst.
“The body of scientific evidence is unambiguous,” says Maarten van Aalst, a climate scientist who heads the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center in Enschede, the Netherlands, and who co-authored the report.
“Any further delay in global adaptation and mitigation action will miss a short and fast-closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”
The report, published on February 28, is the second part of the latest climate assessment by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The first part of the report, released last August, focused on the latest advances in climate science, while the last part looks at the impacts of climate change on people and ecosystems.
It will be followed in early April by the third part, which will assess humanity’s ability to combat climate change, including ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This is the sixth such assessment by the IPCC in the past three decades, and the warnings are getting more dire. Proponents of this idea hope that the latest assessment will finally push governments to take decisive action to overcome the climate crisis.
“In my time, I have seen many scientific reports, but nothing like this,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said at a press conference dedicated to the presentation of the report. It’s “a horrendous accusation of bad climate leadership,” he added.
The main conclusions of the report:
The authors of the report estimate that between 3.3 and 3.6 billion people – more than 40% of the world’s population – live in places and situations that are “highly vulnerable to climate change.”
Some are already experiencing the effects of climate change, which vary by region and are determined by factors such as geography, the way the region is governed, and its socioeconomic position.
The report also refers for the first time to “historical and current patterns of inequality such as colonialism” that contribute to the vulnerability of many regions to climate change.
While additional funding and planning could help many communities improve their climate change preparedness, humanity will soon face “hard limits” to its ability to adapt if temperatures continue to rise, the report says.
For example, coastal communities can temporarily protect themselves from extreme storms by restoring coral reefs, mangroves and wetlands, but rising sea levels will eventually cancel out these efforts, leading to coastal erosion, flooding and loss of fresh water resources.
Climate change has already caused death and suffering around the world, and it will continue. In addition to contributing to increased deaths by causing disasters such as fires and heatwaves, it also affects people’s health in different ways.
For example, inhalation of smoke from fires has contributed to the development of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, while increased rainfall and flooding have led to the spread of diseases such as cholera.
Mental health problems are also on the rise, associated with trauma from extreme events, as well as the loss of livelihoods and culture.
If global temperatures rise by more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, some environmental changes may become irreversible, depending on the magnitude and duration of the “overshoot” over this threshold.
For example, in the forests and permafrost regions of the Arctic, which act as reservoirs of carbon dioxide, extreme global warming can lead to the release of excess carbon, which in turn will contribute to further warming – a self-sustaining cycle.
Sustainable economic development must include the protection of biodiversity and natural ecosystems that keep resources such as fresh water and coastlines protected from the effects of storms, the report says.
Numerous evidence suggests that maintaining the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystems in a warming climate will depend on “effective and equitable conservation of 30% to 50% of the Earth’s land, fresh water and oceans”.
More than 270 researchers from 67 countries have contributed to the latest IPCC report. Here is what some of them say about its importance:
Adele Thomas, geographer at the University of the Bahamas at Nassau. In my opinion, the most important message from the report is that the loss and damage is widespread and already being felt.
Unfortunately, these negative impacts of climate change are disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable and marginalized communities around the world.
Also critical is the data showing that humans and ecosystems have already reached the limits of adaptation when they have exceeded their ability to prevent the negative impacts of climate change.
As a scientist from the Bahamas, one of the low-lying coastal countries at high risk from climate change, I hope this report will serve as an impetus for policy makers to limit warming to 1.5°C, step up adaptation urgently, and address loss and damage.
Edwin Castellanos, director of the Observatory for Sustainable Economics at the University of the Valley of Guatemala in Guatemala City.
This report combines two messages – urgent and hope: the urgency of action not only to radically reduce emissions in the near term, but to step up our actions to adapt to the impacts already observed and to come. And there is hope in knowing that we still have time to take these steps.
I hope this report will highlight the need for developed countries to support developing countries, especially with financial resources, to reduce the vulnerability of people, especially those at higher risk: the poor, marginalized and indigenous peoples.
Sarah Cooley is director of climatology at the Ocean Conservancy, a conservation group based in Washington. This report assesses how local communities are taking on the challenge of climate change and becoming leaders in climate adaptation and climate planning.
It evaluates the climate adaptation measures that communities have already tried and identifies features of successful, equitable action, as well as opportunities for even greater change.
He also confirms that any further delay in climate action will close off opportunities to prevent the worst climate impacts. But the good news is that, despite the slow start, there are more details on how the global community can effectively respond to this challenge.
Ibidun Adelekan, a geographer at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. The report highlights the fact that the ability of individuals and local communities to cope with and adapt to the risks associated with climate change is very limited without government-supported adaptation planning efforts.
Collaboration between citizens, scientists, the private sector and policy makers is needed to develop workable adaptation plans by integrating different knowledge systems, including local and indigenous knowledge.
Raushan Ara Begum is a Bangladeshi economist studying sustainable development at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. This report presents a range of climate adaptation options to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience.
As a citizen of a vulnerable country, I hope that world leaders will take urgent, fast-track action to adapt to climate change while ensuring rapid and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world due to climate change and rising sea levels.
This will further exacerbate the country’s existing problems, including extreme poverty, income inequality, economic and non-economic loss and damage, and low adaptive capacity. Urgent and accelerated action is needed.
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