In the last few months there have been two important IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports dealing with the causes and impacts of climate change. Presently, government officials from around the world are meeting to work line by line through an IPCC report to be published, next Monday, April 4th. We have procrastinated for too long. It is no longer enough to reduce emissions, now we have to adapt and find ways of removing greenhouse gases from our atmosphere.
The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal. The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home. Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone now, many ecosystems are at the point of no return now, and unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frog march to destruction now.António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations
Back in August 2021, the UN Secretary General António Guterres described the last IPCC report as “a code red for humanity”, “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But… there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.”
In February, the IPCC published its sixth assessment of climate change impacts. António Guterres described the report as an “atlas of human suffering.”
The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.Hans-Otto Pörtner, IPCC’s Working Group II’s co-chair, responsible for the February Report
I’ve seen many reports, but nothing like the new @IPCC_CH climate report, an atlas of human suffering & damning indictment of failed climate leadership.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) February 28, 2022
I know people everywhere are anxious & angry. I am, too.
It’s time to turn rage into #ClimateAction. https://t.co/ouBcbujyge
In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald has made clear the consequences for Australians. The impacts are upon us. In south-east Queensland and in Sydney 200.000 people were evacuated from their homes in early March as the Hawkesbury and Georges rivers broke their banks. “Deaths caused by heat in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane will increase from 142 per year recently to 600 per year over the coming decades if emissions are high, though this could reduce by half on a lower emissions pathway…. The frequency and severity of fires will increase, with up to 70 per cent more fire weather days by 2050 in some regions if emissions are not cut, along with the replacement or collapse of alpine ash, snowgum woodland, pencil pine and northern jarrah forests.”
Guterres accurately describes “abdication of leadership” as criminal. More papers need to spell out the consequences of this failure for their communites.
The Sydney Morning Heraldhas spelt out the consequences for Australia.
Key risks identified for Australia
1. Loss and degradation of coral reefs and associated biodiversity and ecosystem service values in Australia due to ocean warming and marine heatwaves (very high confidence)
2. Loss of alpine biodiversity in Australia due to less snow (high confidence)
3. Transition or collapse of alpine ash, snowgum woodland, pencil pine and northern jarrah forests in southern Australia due to hotter and drier conditions with more fires (high confidence)
4. Loss of kelp forests in southern Australia and southeast New Zealand due to ocean warming, marine heatwaves and overgrazing by climate-driven range extensions of herbivore fish and urchins (high confidence)
5. Loss of natural and human systems in low-lying coastal areas due to sea-level rise (high confidence)
6. Disruption and decline in agricultural production and increased stress in rural communities in south-western, southern and eastern mainland Australia due to hotter and drier conditions (high confidence)
7. Increase in heat-related mortality and morbidity for people and wildlife in Australia due to heatwaves (high confidence)
8. Cascading, compounding and aggregate impacts on cities, settlements, infrastructure, supply-chains and services due to wildfires, floods, droughts, heatwaves, storms and sea-level rise (high confidence)
9. Inability of institutions and governance systems to manage climate risks (high confidence)
It is time to stop procrastinating and decarbonise our economies, it will be painful.
Jim Skea is the Research Councils UK Energy Strategy Fellow at Imperial College London, and co-chair of the next IPCC report which will focus on mitigation. “We have a lot more material, this time on carbon dioxide removal. That is, not putting carbon into the atmosphere, but getting it out again…” The report will review “the full spectrum of carbon dioxide removal approaches, which vary absolutely hugely, and the carbon dioxide that is removed can end up in very different stores and in very different places.”
Every line of the report that emerges will have been negotiated with governments. The report will spell out what needs to be done. But will it be done?
There is a chasm between the fine words and policies and the lack of action to tackle climate change.