New IPCC Report: Climate Impacts Happening Now, Transformational Change Needed
The latest climate report has been released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an intergovernmental body of the UN. Like its code-red alarm bell report last summer, this one also warns of the dire impacts of climate change. The new report warns that billions of people are already impacted by heat waves, floods, and wildfires -- and that governments must embrace "transformational" change, rethinking how they build cities, grow food, and produce energy. Without massive changes that sharply reduce reliance on fossil fuels, climate change impacts could "surpass limits to adaptation," the report authors write.
Shyla Raghav, Conservation International vice president of climate change, stated:
What this means is that global action can no longer address only mitigation or adaptation or sustainable development in isolation -- we must undertake all these things together and with great urgency, and we must recognize the historic and ongoing responsibility of the largest carbon emitters.
Democracy Now: Bill McKibben on Dire IPCC Climate Report & How Oil and Gas Are Fueling Putin's Ukraine Invasion, February 28, 2022.
NOAA: IPCC Climate Change 2022 Impacts Report - Insights from NOAA Authors, February 25, 2022.
Why This Matters
The report provides the most comprehensive, detailed look at the threat of climate change. What's described is worse and more widespread than previous IPCC reports -- and the window of opportunity for meaningful change is "brief and rapidly closing," they write. Every fraction of a degree of warming makes adaptations harder. In other words: there's no time to waste. While the impacts described are devastating, a window does still exist. The report calls out that current actions aren't enough. Adaptation efforts aren't a replacement for doing the hard work of cutting carbon emissions.
The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 30, 2021.
As Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the IPCC report, told NOAA, "There is a strong message across all the IPCC reports that we have to act, we need a whole of society approach, no one can be left out, no household, no businesses, no government, and it's that whole of society scale that we haven’t put in place that is urgently needed."
Highlights From The Report
- The most vulnerable people and ecosystems are disproportionately impacted: the world's poorest populations are on the frontlines of a crisis they didn't contribute to. From 2010 to 2020, droughts, floods, and storms killed 15 times as many people in vulnerable countries compared to wealthier ones. Rich countries are behind on the funds they have promised poorer countries to mitigate the damage already caused.
- Half of the species assessed by the report have migrated. Because of the changing climate, plant and animal life is on the move. Seeking temperatures and other climatic conditions they can survive in, species are moving toward the poles, deeper waters, and higher elevations. Some species are at their adaptation limits and risk extinction; even without disappearing, these movements disrupt ecosystems worldwide. Protecting natural habitats is one of the solutions the report points to, which can help limit flooding, wildfires, and the spread of disease.
- Climate change is a public health threat: Extreme heat is the top weather-related cause of death in the US, and with rising temperatures, it’s only expected to be a more severe threat. The report also acknowledges that climate change threatens mental health and wellbeing.
IPCC: Video message by UN Secretary General at the WGII AR6 press conference, February 28, 2022.
This report is one of three parts that make up the IPCC's Sixth Assessment. Last summer's detailed how the climate is changing, calling out human activity in the most explicit terms used yet. The new report focuses on impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. And next month, the final report in the assessment will focus on solutions to stop emissions and the worst impacts of climate change.
Robin Hood: "This is Loss and Damage - Who Pays" narrated by Mark Strong, September 23, 2021.