The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released on 28 February 2022 has said that many of the effects of climate change are already baked in, but that humanity still has a brief window to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The report emphasises that the 2020s need to be a decade of action. Dr Helen Adams of King’s College, London, who is a lead author of the report said, “...yes, things are bad, but actually, the future depends on us, not the climate.”
The report also says that where you live in the world makes a massive difference to the amount of climate impact you may already have seen. Floods, droughts and storms in Africa, South Asia and Central and South America killed 15 times more people there than in other parts of the world.
Around a billion more people will be at risk from coastal hazards, like sea level rises and storm surges in the next few decades, regardless of what we do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now. But if we don’t manage to limit temperature increases to 1.5C above global averages in the 1850s - the limit that is being aimed for after COP26 - and temperatures rise by 1.7 to 1.8C, the report states that half of the human population will be exposed to periods of climatic conditions that are threatening to life.
The United Nations’ Secretary General, Antonio Guterres was highly critical of the world’s industrialised nations, saying. “Today’s IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership….The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal. The world's biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home."
Hans-Otto Pörtner, a co-chair of working group 2 of the IPCC agreed, saying, “Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”
The report places emphasis on ‘climate resilient development’, which helps to build a society’s strength to cope with a changing climate. This is dependent on better health systems, education and reductions in inequality. Professor Brian O’Neill, of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory said, “...if it's a world where we are really making rapid progress on education and health and poverty, if climate change is imposed on that society, the risk will be much lower."
Photo 62636860 / Climate Change © Sjors737 | Dreamstime.com
Bangladesh, village on the island of Charkajal, Bay, Gulf of Bengal: In flood conditions, farmers sit on a mound, waiting with their cattle for the floodwaters to recede. Climate change is causing these floods to be more frequent and more severe.