Climate Change Threatens Humankind: Report

Climate change and its impact on humankind, food and security is no longer a myth. A massive scientific report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says global warming has started affecting every continent, every ocean, and every human being.

Posted on 04/1/14
By Jay Rover | Via ViewsWeek
(Photo by Mikael Miettinen, Creative Commons License)
(Photo by Mikael Miettinen, Creative Commons License)

Scientists for long have predicted the horrific effects of climate change. The economic, ecological, social and humanitarian costs of the impending disaster have for long been a subject of debate. But a new, and probably the most extensive, report released by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans.


The report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC and released in Yokohama, Japan on March 31, details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks. A total of 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, drawn from 70 countries, were selected to produce the report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers.


After years of denial, governments and mega corporations have started acknowledging the economic costs of climate change. But late acknowledgement of climate change has left the world least prepared to face the impending disaster which has already started unfolding in many parts of the worlds. 


The U.S. has seen increased incidence of volatile weather patterns since 2010. Washington-based independent non-partisan think tank Center for American Progress said in a recent report that there were an average of 72 presidential major disaster declarations per year due to floods, storms, and wildfires — a nearly 30 percent increase over the previous decade’s average. It estimates  that the combined price tag for these events was $188 billion and, more devastatingly, they resulted in 1,107 reported fatalities.


Also in 2010, Pakistan saw the worst floods in a century due to excessive rains and melting glaciers. The floods marooned one-fifth of the South Asian country, left 2,000 people dead and caused $4 billion to its economy. Volatile weather is also being increasingly blamed for high food prices and failing crops in many parts of the world. In the U.S., California’s worst drought is causing increase in the price of milk and dairy products.


In Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, rural people are losing ground as higher sea levels turn rivers too salty to grow rice. In Nicaragua, rising temperatures are spreading “coffee rust fungus”, a disease which is killing thousands of trees and may render 80% of its the nation’s coffee-growing areas unusable by 2050. And in the central Philippines, coconut farmers are struggling to recover from November’s Typhoon Haiyan, which badly damaged or tore out an estimated 33m trees.


Similarly, a report published by the Institute of Development Studies in the UK predicts a whopping 20% to 60% rise in food prices by 2050, largely due to declining yields due to climate change. The IPCC predicts that a 2.5°C rise in global temperatures will cost the world economy up to 2% of its output, an estimated $1.4 trillion annually.


Even mega corporations such as the Royal Dutch Shell is no longer mincing words about global warming. In its 2013 annual report, Royal Dutch Shell warns reduced production, additional costs, delayed projects and reduced demand for hydrocarbons. “If we are unable to find economically viable, as well as publicly acceptable, solutions that reduce our CO2 emissions for new and existing projects or products, we may experience additional costs, delayed projects, reduced production and reduced demand for hydrocarbons.”


The IPCC report concludes that responding to climate change involves making choices about risks in a changing world. The nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, though climate change will also continue to produce surprises. The report identifies vulnerable people, industries, and ecosystems around the world. It finds that risk from a changing climate comes from vulnerability (lack of preparedness) and exposure (people or assets in harm’s way) overlapping with hazards (triggering climate events or trends). Each of these three components can be a target for smart actions to decrease risk.
“We live in an era of man-made climate change,” an IPCC press release quoted Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of Working Group II, as saying. “In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future.”
Adaptation to reduce the risks from a changing climate is now starting to occur, but with a stronger focus on reacting to past events than on preparing for a changing future, according to Chris Field, Co-Chair of Working Group II.
“Climate-change adaptation is not an exotic agenda that has never been tried. Governments, firms, and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation,” Field said. “This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continue to change.”


Future risks from a changing climate depend strongly on the amount of future climate change. Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe and pervasive impacts that may be surprising or irreversible.
“With high levels of warming that result from continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions, risks will be challenging to manage, and even serious, sustained investments in adaptation will face limits,” said Field.
Observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people’s livelihoods. The striking feature of observed impacts is that they are occurring from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest.
“The report concludes that people, societies, and ecosystems are vulnerable around the world, but with different vulnerability in different places. Climate change often interacts with other stresses to increase risk,” Field said.
Adaptation can play a key role in decreasing these risks, Barros noted. “Part of the reason adaptation is so important is that the world faces a host of risks from climate change already baked into the climate system, due to past emissions and existing infrastructure,” said Barros.
Field added: “Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming. We definitely face challenges, but understanding those challenges and tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to help build a more vibrant world in the near-term and beyond.”
Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, said: “The Working Group II report is another important step forward in our understanding of how to reduce and manage the risks of climate change. Along with the reports from Working Group I and Working Group III, it provides a conceptual map of not only the essential features of the climate challenge but the options for solutions.”
The Working Group I report was released in September 2013, and the Working Group III report will be released inApril 2014. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report cycle concludes with the publication of its Synthesis Report in October 2014.


“None of this would be possible without the dedication of the Co-Chairs of Working Group II and the hundreds of scientists and experts who volunteered their time to produce this report, as well as the more than 1,700 expert reviewers worldwide who contributed their invaluable oversight,” Pachauri said. “The IPCC’s reports are some of the most ambitious scientific undertakings in human history, and I am humbled by and grateful for the contributions of everyone who make them possible.”


“None of this would be possible without the dedication of the Co-Chairs of Working Group II and the hundreds of scientists and experts who volunteered their time to produce this report, as well as the more than 1,700 expert reviewers worldwide who contributed their invaluable oversight,” Pachauri said. “The IPCC’s reports are some of the most ambitious scientific undertakings in human history, and I am humbled by and grateful for the contributions of everyone who make them possible.”

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