The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report of February 28th, 2022, is another dire reminder of the current and future projections of the situation of our planet if we don’t take the measures and act fast to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Packed full with heartbreaking details about the rising sea level, this 3500 document dives into more info about the correlation between the scorching heat and escalating natural disasters. Without much ado, let’s discuss our main takeaways and what humanity stands to lose if no action is taken.
Our Takeaways from the IPCC Climate Change Report
1. Suffering is inevitable, at least to an extent, but adaptation can help.
Even though adaptation can help, humanity will forever change because some species are on the brink of extinction. We will continue to notice some fish species dying because our oceans have become warmer, more acidic, and depleted oxygen.
Wildfires, ferocious hurricanes, and unprecedented flooding are also claiming lives and destroying communities across the globe.
Humanity has kept unleashing trillion tons of carbon dioxide since the start of the industrial revolution, fueling an increase in our global temperature to over one degree Celsius compared to the late 19th century.
Even if we cease immediately emitting these emissions, we have already set a certain amount of irreversible change in motion. Causing a “high risk” of extinction to about 14% of certain species.
The report further states that even the best-case scenarios, limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, still project an overwhelming loss of most coral reefs plus irreversible glaciers and polar ice loss by the end of the century.
As a result of the earth’s “warming up,” resulting in changes in temperature and weather patterns, we shall notice that some agricultural areas will gradually become unsuitable for growing crops.
Sea level rise will continue to threaten our coastal communities. And they project that annual deaths from climate-related illnesses such as extreme heat exposure, diarrhea-related disease, and childhood malnutrition will increase by 250,000 within the next 30 years.
But all is not that gloomy. And sometimes, scientists say, adaptation can make a significant dent in the suffering.
2. Global warming is killing some plants and wildlife.
Plants and animals cannot shift their habitats fast enough to keep up with rising temperatures shifting seasonal weather patterns, and intensifying disruptive disasters.
The increase in these catastrophic wildfires and fierce hurricanes are incinerating forests and ravaging the coastal ecosystems.
This affects creatures whose migrations patterns are triggered by seasonal changes in daylight to fall out of sync with the plants and flowers they eat.
This IPCC Climate Change Report further estimates that 10% of all plant and animal species could fall into the “high risk” of extinction even if the world limits warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
This means that the losses would equal the number of species driven to extinction by human activities over the last 12,000 years in less than a century.
And the risk of sudden or severe die-offs becomes even higher if global temperatures continue to rise by 2 degrees Celsius or more. Mind-boggling!
And that’s not all. The threat to biodiversity also hurts humans because we depend on ecosystems for food, clean water, and air.
So weakening wildlife populations and damaging its habitats increases the chance of diseases crossing over from animals to people.
Meanwhile, the rise in temperatures risks unleashing millions of tons of carbon currently stored in vegetation and soil.
The IPCC Climate Change Report also warns that losing forests and the thawing of permafrost under some of the worst-case warming scenarios would add the equivalent of 15 years’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.
However, curbing warming to below 2 degrees Celsius would cut emissions from these ecosystems by more than half.
3. Continuous temperature rise will lead to more disease, death, and frequent, costly disasters.
Our world leaders vowed in the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and, if possible, stop it at 1.5 Celsius.
While most nations remain far behind these goals, science could not be more straightforward with each increment of “additional warming” bringing in more devastation, more death — and, of course, more money to spend on coping with the situation.
“Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health,” the IPCC Climate Change report states.
“Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
February 28th, 2022’s report states that the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius of this temperature rise would mean exposing an additional 65 million people to “exceptionally” extreme heat waves every five years.
Right now, we have between 1.5 and 2.5 billion people living in areas exposed to water scarcity — and they project these numbers will continue to increase up to 3 billion if we hit 2 degrees Celsius of warming.
And in the worst-case warming scenarios, projections show an additional 9 million annual deaths from climate-related illnesses by 2100, compared from 1961 to 1990.
Another gloomy projection is that some current crop production areas will become unsuitable and force millions more humans to face hunger by mid-century, with some experiencing 200 or more days a year where outdoor work is not feasible.
Regions that contributed the least to our current climate change problem — particularly Africa, Central America, South Asia, and small island states — will suffer some of the harshest consequences.
And our coming generations will inherit a much harsher planet than the one their parents knew. For instance, people younger than 10 in 2020 are projected to experience a nearly fourfold increase in extreme events at 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming and a fivefold increase if temperatures rise by 3 degrees Celsius.
4. Some places on earth have a lower capacity to adapt, even though the situation is critical.
Another not-so-good outlook from this report is the world must make significant investments in the next few years if it hopes to adapt to the climatic shifts that are already happening and avert more drastic changes in the future.
The report states that humans can adapt to some challenges posed by climate change. But we need to be fast about it.
Currently, most adaptation responses worldwide have been mainly incremental, reactive, and small in scale — “designed to respond to current impacts or near-term climate change risks” rather than the more profound changes coming.
A classic example is the sea walls. They allow for more intense development in coastal areas and inadequate infrastructure in cities that cannot quickly or affordably be altered to deal with heavier rainfall and other extreme weather.
This is especially the case with developing nations and small island states already facing gut-wrenching climate damage and can’t afford to cope because they lack access to climate financing is crippling.
It is worth noting that these places have contributed the least to cause global warming because they have lower carbon footprints than the industrialized world.
“There is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity,” the report’s authors write, “to enable climate-resilient development.”
Gloomy outlook, right? Well, as the report states, we can start by changing our habits to hit our target goal.
How about making baby step changes in your present day-to-day life? Join our engaging challenge and bring a friend or two!
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