In a damning report released this week by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists made clear once more that the world is failing to uphold its responsibility of safeguarding the planet for current and future generations. As much as 40% of the world’s population is described as being “highly vulnerable” to the impacts of increasing heat, with this burden falling disproportionately on those who did the least to cause the problem.
According to the report, cutting emissions by half (at the minimum) throughout the next decade will be paramount if damage to human civilization and the earth’s natural processes are to be mitigated. In other words, it’s now a necessity for the world to rapidly adopt renewable energy and other sustainable practices if climate apartheid is to be avoided.
Seven years in the making, this latest section focuses on the impacts of climate breakdown, highlighting particularly vulnerable locations, and outlining how we can adapt and protect global populations from the inevitable damage that’s to come. Due in April, a third part of the report will detail how the world can concertedly cut emissions in time to stave off the worst of the damage. A final section will be released in October to summarize overall lessons for Egypt’s government meeting for the UN Cop27 climate summit.
António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said, “I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this. Today’s IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”
According to John Kerry – the US special presidential envoy for climate – the latest IPCC report “paints a dire picture of the impacts already occurring because of a warmer world and the terrible risks to our planet if we continue to ignore science. We have seen the increase in climate-fueled extreme events, and the damage that is left behind – lives lost and livelihoods ruined. The question at this point is not whether we can altogether avoid the crisis – it is whether we can avoid the worst consequences.”
Coastal areas around the globe, including small, low-lying island nations, will experience inundation (severe flooding) if the world surpasses 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This, in turn, will trigger a mass humanitarian and refugee crisis the likes of which the world has never seen.
It’s suggested that as much as half of the world’s land and water may need to be protected through conservation initiatives to restore ecosystem’s natural coping mechanisms for environmental stressors.
“Nature can be our saviour,” said Inger Anderson, the head of the UN Environment Program. “But only if we save it first.”
The report also makes clear that inaction on reducing emissions – primarily through the adoption of renewable energy and the electrification of transit and industrial processes – will exacerbate existing problems, such as hunger, poverty, and disease.
“Like taking a wrecking ball to a set of global dominoes, climate change in the 21st century threatens to destroy the foundations of food and water security, smash onwards through the fragile structures of human and ecosystem health, and ultimately shake the very pillars of human civilization,” said Dave Reay, director of Edinburgh Climate Change Institute at the University of Edinburgh.
Policymakers around the globe must listen to what scientists are saying and develop the appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks conducive to a rapid shift to sustainable technologies in global markets. Despite nonstop, record-breaking announcements, solar and wind energy haven’t been able to eclipse fossil fuels – a dire necessity if climate mitigation efforts are to be successful.
Energy emissions are low-hanging fruit thanks to advancements in renewable technology and it’s time governments fully committed to eliminating hydrocarbon fuel sources. The time to double down on renewable energy mandates is now.