On 31 March 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issed a new report on climate change and its effects on our planet. Some 309 lead authors from 70 countries consulted with thousands of experts to compile the report.
So what did the report say? Well, quite a lot actually! Even the Summary is 43 pages long! Its main points are: that we live in a world where climate change is already a reality; that we are not well prepared for some aspects of climate-related risk that we are already facing; that we should place greater emphasis on adapting now to the changes that will come in the future and on making sure that the worst impacts of climate change never become a reality.
How climate change will affect us depends very much on where we live in the world, with some of the world's poorest communities likely to suffer even more as the planet warms up. However, the report also points out that climate change will bring problems to richer countries too. With water and food shortages a real possibility in some parts of the world, mass migration and possibly conflict over resources could follow, so we can't afford to just sit back and wait for the change to happen. But climate change will not just be a problem for the humans on the planet. In fact, many already threatened species will face even greater danger as they are exposed to an increasingly changing climate.
However, the overall picture isn't completely doom-laden. The report points out that humans have been continually adapting to a changing climate across thousands of years. Whilst that change is now happening much faster than we have encountered previously, we still have the ability to adapt. By making efforts now to reduce the emissions that speed up the warming process on the planet, we can ensure that the very worst of the impacts of climate change never affect us. One thing is very clear though - "business as usual" is not an option. We have to take action to prevent the worst from happening.
Look out later this year for a more in-depth look at climate change in a new issue of Conservation Education, due for publication this summer.