A new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that the window to stave off the most severe impacts of climate change is quickly closing, and if humans do not urgently react we will be unable to avoid catastrophic consequences.
“The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet,” said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Hans-Otto Pörtner in a press release. “Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”
The report, which focuses on the impacts of climate change as well as efforts to adapt and who is most vulnerable, finds that 3.3 to 3.6 billion people, or some 40 percent of the global population, live in areas of “high vulnerability” to climate change. Specifically, if the global temperature rises above the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold over pre-industrial levels, even for a temporary period, there could be irreversible damage to biodiversity and climate patterns, permanently impacting human life. Above that level, adaptation strategies that currently work may no longer prove viable.
At 2 degrees Celsius of warming, the report warns, regions relying on snowfall for water supply could see a 20 percent reduction in water resources. And about a billion people in coastal cities are at risk of sea level rise and flood levels by mid-century. At 2 degrees, the report warns, many people who currently farm for a living may no longer be able to grow crops.
“Worldwide action is more urgent than previously assessed,” a presentation accompanying the report warns.
Although the report was prepared prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the report comes at an auspicious time for those who consider climate change the biggest concern facing humanity. Geopolitical tensions over Russia’s role in and influence in Europe is a major reason for the war, a role that itself is heavily influenced by its natural gas and oil production. Some are arguing for increased fossil fuel production to ease domestic concerns regarding dependency on Russian oil and natural gas. Others argue the war is a wake-up call for the need for the world to rapidly shift to green energy that can be locally generated so there are no more wars over fossil fuel supplies and the power struggles that result from it.
“This report,” the presentation concludes, “offers solutions to the world.”