Week of 28 June 2021
What is the future ahead of us, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?
Our key takeaway: “The choices societies make now will determine whether our species thrives or simply survives as the 21st century unfolds” – in the words of leading climate science advisors to the UN
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Working Group II paper, due out in February 2022 was leaked to AFP last week. This 4,000 page report is part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment and is an update to their 2014 report. The AFP notes that the report has already undergone a revision process and unlikely to change before its release next year. The AFP reports as follows:
- “The worst is yet to come, affecting our children’s and grandchildren’s lives much more than our own.” The report finds that species extinction, widespread disease, unliveable heat, ecosystem collapse, cities menaced by rising seas – amongst other devastating climate impacts – are accelerating and will become painfully obvious before a child born today turns 30. The report details numerous severe impacts on people that are accelerating with time. Half a billion people depend on coral reefs which are becoming severely damaged. Indigenous populations in the Arctic face cultural extinction as the environment upon which their livelihoods and history are built melts. Fire seasons will be longer and wide in scope, contributing to food systems losses, with tens of millions more people likely to face chronic hunger by 2050. 130 million more could experience extreme poverty. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk from floods and increasingly frequent storm surges made more deadly. Some 350 million more people living in urban areas will be exposed to water scarcity from severe droughts at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming (410 million at two degrees Celsius).
- “Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems … humans cannot.” The draft report warns of a series of tipping points beyond which recovery from climate breakdown may become impossible. It warns: “The choices societies make now will determine whether our species thrives or simply survives as the 21st century unfolds.” The challenges it highlights are systemic, woven into the very fabric of daily life. They are also deeply unfair: those least responsible for global warming will suffer disproportionately.
- Four key takeaways. First, with 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming clocked so far, the climate is already changing. Even if we manage to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming, there will be negative impacts on people – and on current trends, we’re heading for three degrees Celsius. Second, the world must face up to this reality and prepare for the onslaught. Thirdly, there is great danger in compound and cascading impacts, along with point-of-no-return thresholds in the climate system known as tipping points. Fourth, “We need transformational change operating on processes and behaviours at all levels: individual, communities, business, institutions and governments. … We must redefine our way of life and consumption.”
For more, see AFP, Crushing climate impacts to hit sooner than feared: draft UN report (France 24, 23 June 2021)