The dangers of climate change are increasing so rapidly that they could soon undermine the adaptability of both nature and humanity, creating a grim future where floods, fires and famines have displaced millions of people, species have disappeared and the planet has been irreversibly damaged. great new scientific report has concluded.
The report, released Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, composed of experts convened by the United Nations, is the most detailed look yet at the threats posed by global warming. The report concludes that nations are not doing nearly enough to protect their cities, farms and coastlines from the dangers already posed by climate change, such as record droughts and rising seas, aside from the larger disasters that await as the planet continues to warm. .
United Nations secretary-general António Guterres said the report, written by 270 researchers from 67 countries, is “an atlas of human suffering and a damning accusation of failed climate leadership”. “Really to the truth, this report reveals how people and the planet are being impacted by climate change.”
As global temperatures continue to rise in the coming decades, hundreds of millions of people will be able to fight floods, deadly heat waves and water shortages due to severe drought, the report said. Mosquitoes that carry diseases such as dengue and malaria will spread to new parts of the world. Crop failures could become more common, putting families at greater risk of starvation and malnutrition in places like Africa and Asia. People who cannot adapt to the enormous environmental changes will suffer inevitable losses or flee their homes, creating global-scale displacement, the authors said.
To avoid the most catastrophic effects, nations must quickly and sharply reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases that are dangerously warming the planet, the report said.
Even so, the world’s poorest countries are increasingly battling climate shocks and will likely need hundreds of billions of dollars a year over the next few decades to protect themselves – support that rich nations have been slow to provide so far.
“This report is frightening; “There’s no other way to say it,” said Simon Stiell, environment minister for the Caribbean country of Grenada. “We need to provide enhanced action and increased climate finance for adaptation. The scale of this crisis demands nothing less.”
Global temperatures have increased by an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century as humans pump heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and gas for energy and cutting down forests.
Many leaders, including President Biden, swore Limiting total global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. That’s the threshold that scientists say increases the likelihood that the climate will end in disaster.
However, achieving this goal is Eliminate fossil fuel emissions completely by 2050, and most are far from the road. The world is currently warming at somewhere between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius this century. experts predicted.
According to the report, if the average warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius, even humanity’s best efforts to adapt could be disrupted. The cost of defending coastal communities against rising seas may exceed what many nations can afford. In some regions, including parts of North America, livestock and outdoor workers may face increased heat stress that makes farming increasingly difficult.
“Beyond 1.5, we will not be managing on many fronts,” said Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Climate Center and author of the report. “If we don’t implement changes now in terms of how we deal with the physical infrastructure and also how we organize our societies, it will be bad.”
Poor countries are much more exposed to climate risks than rich countries. According to the report, between 2010 and 2020, droughts, floods and storms killed 15 times more people in highly vulnerable countries, including those in Africa and Asia, than in the richest countries.
This inequality sparked a controversial debate: what is most responsible for industrialized countries’ greenhouse gas emissions? indebted to developing countries. Low-income countries seek financial aid both to defend against future threats and to compensate for harm they cannot avoid. The issue will come into focus when governments meet for the next United Nations climate summit in Egypt in November.
“People are still dying every day” in northern Kenya, where drought has destroyed crops and pastures, said Fatuma Hussein, program manager for Power Shift Africa, a think tank. “They can’t even provide food for their animals and themselves.”
Ms. Hussein said some shepherds are moving their animals to wetter areas. But she said that vulnerable countries cannot manage without the support of rich nations.
Debora Ley, a Guatemala-based energy expert who contributed to the report, said climate adaptation measures that are effective today in Central America may no longer be viable in the coming years. Dr. Amid rising seas, droughts and mudslides exacerbated by deforestation, Ley worries that some communities in the region may face collapse. “You can live in a place but if you’re prone to flooding for six months out of 12 in a year, then can you really consider it habitable?” she said.
Approved by 195 governments, the report makes clear that risks to humans and nature are accelerating to some degree with every additional bit of warming.
The authors wrote that if global warming reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius, up to 8 percent of the world’s farmland will not be suitable for growing food by the end of the century. Coral reefs that protect their coastlines from storms will face more frequent bleaching from ocean heat waves and will decline by 70 to 90 percent. The number of people worldwide exposed to severe coastal flooding could increase by more than a fifth without new protections.
At 2 degrees Celsius, the amount of land burned by wildfires around the world It is expected to increase by more than a third. 800 million to 3 billion people worldwide can become chronic Water scarcity Due to drought, including over a third of the population in Southern Europe. Crop yields and fish harvests may begin to decline in many places.
At 3 degrees of warming, the risk of extreme weather events could increase fivefold by the end of the century. Sea level rise and heavy rainstorms could cause four times more economic damage worldwide than they do today. 29 percent of known plant and animal species on land could face a high risk of extinction.
To date, many countries have been able to partially limit the damage by spending billions of dollars each year on adaptation measures such as flood barriers, air conditioning or early warning systems for tropical cyclones.
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Over the past half century, worldwide deaths from storms, floods and other extreme weather events fell more than half Because of its advanced early warning systems and disaster management, the World Meteorological Organization found it. Investments in public health mean fewer people succumb to diseases such as cholera, even as rising temperatures and heavy rains facilitate their spread.
However, the report noted that these efforts were often “incremental.” Preparing for future threats, such as diminished freshwater supplies or irreversible ecosystem damage, will require “transformational” changes that include rethinking how people build homes, grow food, produce energy and protect nature.
Some of the planet’s most vulnerable countries are digging deep into their vaults to deal with climate threats. Ethiopia aims to spend $6 billion a year on a series of adaptation measures, corresponding to 5.6 percent of its annual economic output, according to government information. Compiled by Power Shift Africa. South Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world, is preparing to spend $376 million a year until 2030 against climate-related flooding.
Ten years ago, wealthy countries committed to giving the developing world $100 billion a year by 2020 to switch to cleaner energy sources and adapt to climate change. However tens of billions of dollars left behindwith only a fraction of the funds spent on compliance.
John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, acknowledged in an interview Monday that wealthy, heavily polluting countries are not doing enough.
“Every country needs to do more in terms of mitigation and more in terms of both adaptation and resilience, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
At the same time, many communities are still acting in ways that increase their vulnerability, the report said. For example, one reason for the increased risk of coastal flooding is the relocation of millions of people to endangered low-lying areas due to sea level rise. And some compliance measures have unintended consequences. For example, sea walls protect certain places, but can also divert floods to populated areas elsewhere. Irrigation can help protect crops from drought, but it can also deplete groundwater resources.
Instead, the report recommends that leaders pursue more forward-thinking strategies. As the oceans rise, coastal communities may settle inland, deterring additional development along fragile shorelines. Improvements in essential services such as health, roads, electricity and water can help poor and rural communities be more resilient to climate shocks.
“If we act now, we have many options,” said Edward R. Carr, professor of international development at Clark University and author of the report. “Ten years from now, it’s a lot less hell. Thirty years from now, I don’t know.” “We will always have options. But these will be less good choices and much harder choices to make.”
Somini Sengupta contributing reporting.