The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just published its latest Working Group II report detailing impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability associated with climate change. The highly anticipated report paints a bleak picture with respect to the consequences of continued climate change. The latest IPCC report predicts future food and water supply insecurities, and calls for both mitigation and adaptation.
Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Rajendra K. Pachauri says he hopes the report on the rising threat of climate change will “jolt people into action”. The report found the strongest evidence of climate change in the thawing permafrost in the Arctic and in the destruction of coral reefs. It found many freshwater and marine species had shifted their geographical range due to climate change. But the report said climate change was growing more evident in human systems as well, where it posed a series of risks. Climate change was already beginning to affect crop yields, especially for wheat and maize, and the report says that yields could decline sharply towards the middle of the century.
The scientists found climate change was a driver of violent conflicts and migration, and was exacerbating inequality, making it harder for people to claw their way out of poverty. Climate change was also a factor in the rise of mega-disasters. The report said climate change was driving recent heatwaves and droughts, and was a risk factor for wildfires.
The latest IPCC report: FIVE Key Points
1. Food threat
Climate change is already taking a sizeable chunk out of global food supply and it is going to get worse. Increases in crop yields – which are needed to sustain a growing population – have slowed over the last 40 years. Some studies now point to dramatic declines in some crops over the next 50 years – especially wheat, and to a lesser extent corn. Rice so far is unaffected. The shortages, and the threat of food price spikes, could lead to unrest.
2. Human security
Climate change poses a threat to human security, and could lead to increased migration. Potential shortages of food and water, because of climate change, could be drivers of future conflicts. These won't necessarily be wars between states, but conflicts between farmers and ranchers, or between cities and agriculture industry which wants water for food. On the flip side, those conflicts are going to get in the way of government's efforts to protect people from future climate change.
Some are more vulnerable than others. Poor people in poor countries – and even the poor in rich countries – are going to bear an unfair burden of climate change, the report said. Climate change is going to exacerbate existing inequalities, and it is going to make it harder for people to claw their way out of poverty.
4. No-one is safe
As temperatures rise beyond 2 degrees to 4 degrees – our current trajectory – there are limits to how far society can adapt to climate change. The only way out is to cut emissions now – and buy some time by slowing warming – and at the same time make plans for sea walls, relocations, and other measures that can keep people out of harms' way.
5. Hard but not hopeless.
The report notes that research on the effects of climate change has doubled since the last report in 2007 – and so has understanding about what needs to done to insulate people from more severe consequences.
As the world digests the sobering findings of the latest installment of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a reminder of what the panel is designed to do: To inform policy decisions, including the negotiations towards the UN global climate change agreement in Paris in 2015. See this and other infographics at http://bit.ly/1ggttKT
Credit: The UK Guardian and The IPCC