The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has today, the 31st of March, issued its second chapter of the fifth assessment report in Yokohama, Japan.
The report, titled “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks and opportunities for effective action.
As with previous reports, the authors reiterate thathuman interference with the climate IS occurring and that climate change poses serious risks for both human and natural systems. The report builds on previous IPCC forecasts that global temperatures will rise 0.3-4.8 degrees Celsius this century, on top of roughly 0.7 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. In terms of sea level rise, the report forecasts an increase in levels by 26-82cm by 2100.
What is new to this report is a shift in focus from the problems to the solutions. For the first time, the IPCC looks at the effects of climate change as a series of risks; the aim being to support decision and policy making in the context of climate change.
Among the risks, the panel lists:
Floods: Rising greenhouse gas emissions will significantly boost flood risk, with Europe and Asia particularly exposed.
Water Stress: Surface and groundwater in arid countries will be significantly reduced and hence competition for resources will intensify.
Rising Seas: The risk of coastal flooding and land loss will increase significantly over the coming decades. Small island states and low-lying countries are expected to face ‘high impacts’.
Health: Risks to human health include the spread of vector borne diseases as well as waterborne disease. Death due to heat waves and poor nutrition will also increase.
Hunger: All aspects of food security are at risk and may be hit from climate change. Tropical and sub-tropical regions will be affected the most.
Economy: Estimated range of between 0.2 and 2 per cent of global income loss due to a temperature rise of about 2 degrees C.
The report also delves into the risks associated with a temperature increase above 4 degrees Celsius; a very unattractive picture. The report forecasts that a large fraction of both terrestrial and marine creatures risk extinction, with the Arctic and coral reef ecosystems at high risk with even a 2 degree rise in temperature. Loss of land from rising seas is predicted as well as conflicts arising from poverty and people displacement.
The report, which was written by 436 authors (with 2,000 experts contributing) and edited by 309 lead authors and review editors, has stated that in many cases we are not prepared for the climate related risks we already face; although many of the adaptive measures are easy and cheap.
Some measures included were:
-Reduce water waste and encourage recycling
-Preventing settlement in areas prone to flooding where feasible.
-Conservation of wetlands to act as a flood buffer and preservation of mangroves to shield coasts from storms.
-Introduce climate resilient crops and encourage water efficient irrigation.
-Incorporate green design into cities to reduce the Urban Heat Island effect.
- Increase awareness in governments, administration and among the public.
But, of course the elephant in the room is still greenhouse gas emissions. Only by reducing emissions greatly and as quickly as possible do the risks of climate change lessen.
The IPCC panel have said that the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents; this is a shared problem and there must be a shared solution. Global cooperation is paramount to maximise the opportunities to respond to the risks that face us.
The debate against the existence of climate change is over scientifically. As stated by Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of the IPCC working group, “We live in an era of man-made climate change”. We now have to create man-made solutions and adaptations to mitigate the damage we have done.
We are at a cross roads, the path we choose and the choices we make will dictate the impacts of climate change.
Next month in Berlin, we will get the third installment with the release of the Working Group III report on April 12, looking at the prospects for mitigating global warming; we will keep you posted.