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IPCC paints disturbing picture of climate change; governments must act

Disturbing picture of climate change

Civil society groups joining together in Japan to call for climate action. Courtesy of: Greenpeace/Jeremie Souteyrat

The impacts of global warming are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible.” That’s the stark warning of the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its latest report examining the consequences of climate change to life and livelihood.

Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent, and throughout the world’s ocean, and the big risks and impacts are far more immediate and local than scientists once thought.

The report pulled together over 12,000 per-reviewed scientific papers, and involved hundreds of authors and thousands of expert reviewers. The report is based on double the amount of scientific literature than the previous report in 2007.

It offers and unprecedented analysis of climate impacts at the regional level.

Co-Chair of Working Group II, said:

The report concludes that people, societies, and ecosystems are vulnerable around the world, but with different vulnerability in different places. Climate change often interacts with other stresses to increase risk. Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming. We definitely face challenges, but understanding those challenges and tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to help build a more vibrant world in the near-term and beyond.

Not only does it warn of crop failure, food and water shortages, rising sea levels, and serious impacts on human health, but also that countries around the world are ill-prepared for these impacts.

Climate and Policy Analyst at CAFOD, Rob Elsworth said:

The IPPC report along with the evidence we’re seeing on the ground in developing countries shows climate change is the single biggest threat to poverty reduction that exists today. It has the potential to undermine years of hard-won gains in improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. We have the means to end poverty within our lifetimes, but not if we don’t tackle climate change, by cutting our emissions and by helping poor people to cope with its impacts.

For the first time WGII looks extensively at the world’s oceans and shows that marine species and biodiversity are highly sensitive to warming waters and ocean acidification.

Climate change will also threaten global security, causing civil wars and conflict between nations. The failure to act on climate change is the world’s “gravest threat to human and national security”.

This is a resoundingly clear warning for world governments of the threat climate change poses to all aspects of life on Earth.

Tim Gore, Head of Policy, Advocacy and Research for the GROW campaign, Oxfam International said:

This report is clear: the impact of climate change on food is worse than previously estimated. We have already seen significant declines in global yields for staple crops like wheat and maize and food price spikes linked to extreme weather, and the picture is set to get much worse. Without urgent action on both adaptation and emissions reduction, the goal of ensuring everyone has enough to eat may be lost forever. Political leaders should ask themselves whether this will be the generation to let that happen.

The report also tells us that we can no longer chose between mitigation and adaptation, that there are limits to adaptation, and that funding for necessary adaptation efforts is insufficient. It proves everyone wrong who argues that we can just keep on polluting our way into the future, and adapt to changes ahead.

The report shows that current emission trends mean that we will start exceeding limits to adaptation in both natural and human systems.

According the IPCC the world can’t choose to either pollute and adapt, or to mitigate without adapting.

We have entered an era that requires both, managing the impacts hitting us already while preventing the impacts of the future.

Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF Global Climate & Energy Initiative said:

This report tells us that we have two clear choices: cut emissions now and invest in adaption – and have a world that has challenging and just barely manageable risks; or do nothing and face a world of devastating and unmanageable risks and impacts.

The report makes it clear that we still have time to act. We can limit climate instability and adapt to some of the changes we see now. But without immediate and specific action, we are in danger of going far beyond the limits of adaptation.

What counts now are the days, weeks and months to come, and whether governments will take this update of the science as an urgent reminder of the need to take stronger action, and to take it now.

Governments own this report, they have ordered it, so we can expect them to take it seriously, and reflect the science in their policies.

Senior Political Advisor, Greenpeace International, Kaisa Kosonen said:

Scientists are warning us, but they are not telling us to give up. The solutions are already here. A growing wave of people, communities, corporations and investors around the world are already making a difference by moving to clean and safe renewable energy and demanding governments to stand with them. There’s a better future than the one we are currently offered and it’s ours if we want to grasp it.

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