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The second major climate report has been released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The assessment report warns of the impact of global warming and climate change around the world. It therefore places more focus on abnormal weather occurrences, that are largely due to climate change (whilst the first report emphasised the effects of human activity).
This IPCC report is arguably the most comprehensive assessment of the impacts of climate change to date. Every region has been severely affected, with 3.3 to 3.6 billion living people now living in areas of high vulnerability.
Let’s take a look at some of the other topics covered by the new climate change report.
At the launch of the latest report, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that world emissions will have to be cut by 45% by 2030, in order to limit global temperatures to 1.5°C.
The report says that it is inevitable that things will get worse – even if we manage to keep warming to below 1.5°C but today’s warning is what will happen if we exceed this limit. If the current emissions trajectory continues, then we will struggle to keep warming below 3°C. Which will result in ‘irreversible’ impacts.
Droughts, floods, heatwaves and other extreme weather patterns have already had a devastating impact on communities around the world. And as temperatures continue to rise, the repercussions are accelerating – along with increasing damage.
The end result is food, water, and home insecurity for millions of people. Many coastal homes are at risk of complete destruction as sea levels continue to rise – and levels are expected to rise between 12 and 18cm by 2050.
Between 2010 and 2020, 15 times more people died from floods, droughts and storms in very vulnerable regions compared to less vulnerable areas. Areas more at risk include parts of Africa, South Asia and Central and South America.
The report also states that diseases will spread at an alarmingly quick rate as climactic conditions continue to dwindle. Mental health has also been touched upon by the IPCC as extreme weather events impact many individuals through stress and trauma.
Key ecosystems are also losing their ability to absorb carbon – resulting in severe disruption to natural processes in the environment. Forests are being burnt down, and large amounts of coral reefs dying.
And it is not just people living in vulnerable areas that are at risk of life. Animals and birds living in high-risk areas already have a very high extinction rate. Which is expected to double as warming rises towards 2°C.
The report went on to further emphasise that beyond the climates current temperature lie irreversible impacts and risks. Meaning adaptation and mitigation is intrinsically needed.
Green technology and innovative infrastructure have been seen as saviours for the Earth in many senses. But the IPCC explained within the report that some technologies could potentially be worsening CO₂ levels. There are worries surrounding that idea that machines that suck CO₂ from the air could trigger other warming gases to enter the atmosphere.
While many technologies such as electric vehicles and green energy will have a positive impact, the report made very clear that many other factors must be invested in.
If countries want to commit to preventing further harm to the environment, the move away from fossil fuels is essential. The report addresses the main causes of ecosystem losses and deforestation.
As explained at COP26 last November, adaptation to the changing climate will be vital. The UN restated this in the latest report. UN Environment Programme Director Inger Andersen said: “The best way to do this is to let nature do the job it has spent millions of years perfecting. We need large-scale ecosystem restoration, from ocean to mountaintop.
“We need to bring nature into baking hot cities to keep them cool. We need to conserve mangroves and coral reefs and other natural defences. We need to protect and restore wetlands for nature and to incorporate wetlands into our cities.”
Around 30-50% of the Earth’s land, ocean and freshwater areas need to be conserved, to maintain nature’s resilience. This will be key to aiding the storage of carbon and to adapt to rising temperatures. The UN has also called for more financial resources and political commitment to help with adaptation. In particular, they are concerned with protecting those communities that are most at-risk.
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