Latest IPCC report outlines the risks of climate change—and the lack of readiness.
The world is not ready for climate change, which poses a number of serious risks, says the planet’s leading body of climate scientists.
On Monday morning in Yokohama, Japan, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major report on the impacts of climate change, with the goal of spurring world leaders to act more decisively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report warns of serious impacts from changing climate on agriculture and human civilization and argues that governments are ill prepared for its effects.
The hundreds of scientists who wrote the report argue that world leaders have only a few years left to reduce carbon emissions enough to avoid catastrophic warming. At the same time, governments must step up efforts to protect vulnerable communities from increased natural hazards associated with climate change.
"Observed impacts of climate change are widespread and consequential," the scientists of the IPCC write in the report.
The new report show that "today's choices are going to significantly affect the risk that climate change will pose for the rest of the century," says Kelly Levin, a scientist who studies the impacts of climate change at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C.
"Crossing a Threshold"?
The new IPCC report warns that the world is close to missing a chance to limit the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a goal that world leaders had previously agreed was an important target. Beyond that point, "impacts will begin to be unacceptably severe," the authors wrote.
"There is potential for crossing a threshold that leads to large system changes, and that's a very unknown world that has severe consequences," Levin says. If the warming were to go beyond four degrees Celsius, she says, as predicted by some climate models, "we would see extensive changes in agriculture." Some areas where people currently live could also be rendered uninhabitable due to extreme shifts in temperature, amount of water, or sea level.
Even at the lower end of predictions, the report warns: "Climate change will lead to increased frequency, intensity and/or duration of extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall, warm spells and heat events, drought, intense storm surges and associated sea-level rise."
Levin says the report may be a "wake-up call, letting people know that climate change is now everywhere and that impacts are already unfolding." She hopes the report will help fill in some details and serve as a call to action for international leaders to negotiate more aggressive attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
People Aren't Ready for Climate Change
The report from Working Group II further warns: "Impacts from recent extreme climatic events, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and wildfires, demonstrate significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to climate variability (very high confidence). These experiences are consistent with a significant adaptation deficit in developing and developed countries for some sectors and regions."
Written By: Brian Clark Howard
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