The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the Sixth Assessment Report (6AR) on February 28, 2022, which examines the vulnerability of ecosystems and human societies to climate change and discusses adaptation possibilities. In comparison to earlier assessments, this report emphasizes social justice, the necessity for urgent action, and the diversity of knowledge sources from indigenous and local people. “A liveable and sustainable future for all” – What’s at risk is spelled clearly in the report’s final words.
Here are five takeaways from the report:
- Climate change causes unquestionable health consequences
Climate change is already wreaking havoc on people’s physical and mental health, with half of humanity already facing water scarcity and billions more facing excessive heat, vector-borne illnesses, and starvation as a result of global warming. Heat stress affects one out of every three persons, and the number is expected to rise to 50% to 75% by the end of the century. Every year, half a million more people are at danger of major floods, and by 2050, a billion people living along coasts will be vulnerable.
In North America, the report warns that more extreme weather, such as storms and wildfires, would result in more deaths and physical and mental disorders. Australia suffers “increases in heat-related mortality and morbidity for people and wildlife,” while small island communities fear “destruction.” In Central and South America, “severe health effects due to increasing epidemics” are anticipated, particularly from diseases spread by insects and other animals. One of Asia’s greatest hazards is floods, while Africa is plagued by hunger as a result of climate change’s impact on agriculture.
“People around the world are already suffering from the impacts of climate change at 1.1C of warming,” said Emily Shuckburgh, director of Cambridge Zero at the University of Cambridge. “Beyond 1.5C would put peace, security, economic stability and nature in peril across our planet and be an existential threat for far too many.”
- Some things will be irretrievably gone
Although the report focuses on adaptation options, the message is clear: many damages and losses are now or are on the verge of becoming irreversible. Human-caused climate change is wreaking “increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems”. Even if global warming stays below 1.6 degrees C by 2100, 8% of today’s farmland will be climatically unfit, just as the world’s population reaches 9 billion people. While the report states that protecting wild places and wildlife is critical to addressing the climate crisis, animals and plants are being exposed to climatic conditions not seen in tens of thousands of years. Half of the species studied have been forced to relocate, and many are on the verge of extinction.
Glacier retreat and changes to Arctic and mountain ecosystems from thawing permafrost are also “approaching irreversibility” impacts. According to the report, by 2050, at least one billion people would be at danger of losing their homes due to storms exacerbated by rising seas.
- We can adapt to a certain extent
The 4,000-page research highlights a variety of climate-change adaptation options, including innovative and practical methods to increase food and water security and conserve ecosystems. The report indicates that adaptation is integrated in climate policies and planning procedures in at least 170 nations and numerous cities. Adaptation has the potential to increase agricultural production, innovation, health, food security, livelihoods, and biodiversity protection.
However, current adaptation efforts, including private climate investment, are insufficient to avert or effectively manage rising climate hazards. Adaptation programs are not evenly spread regionally, and they are chronically underfunded, according to the report. Worse, we “cannot eliminate” all losses and damages even with adequate finance and management.
Because the scale of suffering would be significantly reduced if the temperature increase was maintained close to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report shows that unless the emissions that cause climate change fall “rapidly,” societies’ adaptation choices will become “increasingly limited.”
“Adaptation saves lives,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said with the report’s release. “As climate impacts worsen – and they will – scaling up investments will be essential for survival… Delay means death.”
- The poorest are the most vulnerable
Climate change affects everyone, yet not everyone is affected equally. Timon McPhearson, an urban ecologist at The New School in New York and one of the report’s 270 authors, stated, “It’s the poor and most marginalized who are most vulnerable.” People in developing countries in Africa, South Asia, and tiny island nations, as well as marginalized populations in wealthier countries like the United States, fall into this category.
Currently, up to 3.6 billion people live in are “highly vulnerable to climate change,” a statistic that is expected to climb. Climate “losses and damages” are “strongly concentrated among the poorest vulnerable populations,” according to the report, who are the least accountable for the crisis. Some impacts already have a disproportionately high toll in some areas, with mortality from floods, droughts, and storms 15 times greater in highly vulnerable countries than in low-vulnerability countries during the last decade. Malnutrition has already grown in many communities, especially “among indigenous peoples, smallholders, and low-income households, with children and pregnant women particularly impacted.”
The report also makes it obvious that coping with the climate crisis is a social as well as a scientific issue. Action that tackles “inequities such as those based on gender, ethnicity, disability, age, location and income” is the greatest method to provide effective and long-term protection from climate catastrophe. It claims that solutions must incorporate social justice and include indigenous peoples, minorities, and the impoverished.
- Every increment of global warming matters
The report was released three months after COP26, emphasizing the need for measures to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. According to the report, “losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming” implying that any effort to reduce emissions or adapt is crucial. Limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius would not avert, but will significantly decrease, damages to environment, society, and economy.
In order to reduce heating and make cities more walkable, natural vegetation, trees, and green walls and roofs may be put into urban areas. Building efficiency requirements can be enshrined in legislation to aid in the transformation of urban planning and the reduction of energy expenditures. Rivers can be restored to their original condition by eliminating man-made dams and other artificial features, providing flood protection to new habitats and sustainable livelihoods to vulnerable populations. To increase biodiversity, regenerative farming approaches can be used.
The IPCC scientists said the end of the century is less than a generation away, with a kid born today turning 78 in 2100: “Actions taken now will have a profound effect on the quality of our children’s lives.”
“We can prevent and protect ourselves from extreme weather, famines, health problems and more by cutting emissions and investing in adaptation strategies,” said Christiana Figueres, former UN climate chief and now at the Global Optimism group. “The science and the solutions are clear. It’s up to us how we shape the future.”
For more information about the IPCC report refer to the full text copy here and for more climate-inspired topics follow Evergreen Labs on social media channels!