Humanity has a ‘brief and rapidly closing window’ to avoid a hotter, deadly future, U.N. climate report says
Latest IPCC report details escalating toll — but top scientists say the world still can choose a less catastrophic path
In the hotter and more hellish world humans are creating, parts of the planet could become unbearable in the not-so-distant future, a panel of the world’s foremost scientists warned Monday in an exhaustive report on the escalating toll of climate change.
Unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will raise sea levels several feet, swallowing small island nations and overwhelming even the world’s wealthiest coastal regions. Drought, heat, hunger and disaster may force millions of people from their homes. Coral reefs could vanish, along with a growing number of animal species. Disease-carrying insects would proliferate. Deaths — from malnutrition, extreme heat, pollution — will surge.
These are some of the grim projections detailed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body dedicated to providing policymakers with regular assessments of the warming world.
Drawing on thousands of academic studies from around the globe, the sweeping analysis finds that climate change is already causing “dangerous and widespread disruption” to the natural world, as well as billions of people around the planet. Failure to curb pollution from fossil fuels and other human activities, it says, will condemn the world to a future that is both universally dangerous and deeply unequal.
Low-income countries, which generate only a tiny fraction of global emissions, will experience the vast majority of deaths and displacement from the worst-case warming scenarios, the IPCC warns. Yet these nations have the least capacity to adapt — a disparity that extends to even the basic research needed to understand looming risks.
“I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement. Noting the litany of devastating impacts that already are unfolding, he described the document as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”
“This abdication of leadership is criminal,” Guterres added. “The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.”
Yet if there is a glimmer of hope in the more than 3,500-page report, it is that the world still has a chance to choose a less catastrophic path. While some climate impacts are destined to worsen, the amount that Earth ultimately warms is not yet written in stone.
The report makes clear, however, that averting the worst-case scenarios will require nothing less than transformational change on a global scale.
Read the full Washington Post review
Read the summary prepared by Ralph Watts of Dorset CAN
Read the article by Belinda Bawden of Dorset CAN
A portion of the Greenland ice sheet appears to be reaching a tipping point where it would fall into an irreversible period of melting, according to research by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The ice covers about 660,000 square miles and is up to 3,000 m thick. It will retain its size only if the mass lost to meltwater and calving icebergs each year is replenished by new snowfall. The research suggests that warming of the Arctic has disturbed this balance. The ice sheet is shrinking. As its height reduces, it is exposed to higher average temperatures. This leads to more melting, further height reductions, warmer temperatures still and an accelerating loss of ice. The collapse of the sheet, which contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 7 metres, would affect coastal regions and cities around the world.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA
Guardian, 17 May 2021