Let’s start at the very end, with the conclusion of the summary for decision-makers:
“The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
So to summarise the summary; it’s definitely getting worse, there’s still time to fix it but we really don’t have long.
To go into a little more detail… On February 28th, the IPCC Group II report was released. The IPCC is The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or le GIEC in French) and they provide regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. This enormous undertaking is the work of about 270 contributors which is then validated by 195 member states.
The most recent release is the second of the three parts of the 6th report, and it focuses on the impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of our planet to climate change. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has bleakly describes the report as an “atlas of human suffering”.
This report is a stark reminder that climate change is very real and very present. It’s already happening and has already caused considerable damage to both nature and people, which we can most notably see through the increase in extreme weather events. Climate change is also responsible for countless humanitarian crises and will continue to be so as 3.6 billion people live in areas highly vulnerable to the impacts of the changing climate.
STATE OF AFFAIRS
The report details a review of the current and future dramatic consequences on agriculture, biodiversity, physical and mental health:
Climate change will put increasing pressure on food production and access, particularly in vulnerable regions, which will comprise food and nutrition security.
Short-term warming with increases in the frequency, severity and duration of extreme events will put many terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems at high or very high risk of biodiversity loss
The report evaluates the long and short term risks and shows that global warming, which will reach 1.5°C in the near future, will lead to an inevitable increase in many climatic hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems.
Climate change and the extreme events it causes will significantly increase health problems and premature deaths (zoonose, dengue etc…)
The current situation is already extreme but can only be expected to get worse. One of the more painful aspects is that the countries who have contributed least to global emissions are the most vulnerable to its impacts.
The short term consequences have been divided into two phases; from 2021-2040 and from 2040-2100, and it is important to build adaptation strategies accordingly. The 1.5°C limit is repeatedly referenced throughout: it’s the limit which cannot be exceeded because once we are past it, there will be serious additional risks to many human and natural systems. It is worth noting that this limit was once thought to be 2°C but has very clearly changed to 1.5°C.
EUROPE AND THE MOUNTAINS
Unfortunately, it’s looking bad for us too. France and Europe will not be spared. Heatwaves, droughts, agricultural loss, floods, rising water levels and so on.
There is a chapter of the report dedicated specifically to mountainous zones, detailing loss of glacier mass, reduced snow cover, thawing of permafrost, changes in seasonal rhythms, floods, landslides, impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity, and increased competition for water resources.
Articles articulate well consequences like increasing cost of snow cannon, loss of snow cover, fight around water resources, landslides and loss of alpine identiy: global warming in the Alps or climate change in the mountains
This information is pretty overwhelming but it’s important to remember the future is still in our hands. However, it is absolutely imperative that we adapt and we do so now. Whilst the report recognises that there are adaptation initiatives underway, many of them prioritise immediate and short-term climate risk reduction, reducing the scope for longer term transformational adaptation.
The greatest strength of this report is that it recognises the interdependence of climate, ecosystems and biodiversity, and human societies. It makes it very clear that the focus has to be on integrated solutions across multiple sectors that address social inequalities.
The report states that “inclusive governance that prioritises equity and justice in adaptation planning and implementation leads to more effective and sustainable adaptation outcomes”.
Safety nets that support climate change adaptation have also had strong benefits for development goals such as education, poverty reduction, gender inclusion and food security.
The final part of the Summary for Policymakers shows that global level action for climate-resilient development is even more urgent than assessed in the 2014 report. Some options… cooperation, nature-based solutions, ethical and social justice…
Climate-resilient development is facilitated by international cooperation and by governments at all levels working with communities, civil society, educational bodies, scientific and other institutions, the media, investors and businesses, as well as by developing partnerships with traditionally marginalized groups, including women, youth, indigenous peoples, local communities and ethnic minorities (SPM D.2)
Climate-resilient development is enhanced when actors work in a way that is ethical, fair and conducive to reconciling divergent interests, values and worldviews for ethical and fair outcomes.
Pathways to climate-resilient development overcome jurisdictional and organisational barriers, and are based on societal choices that accelerate and deepen key system transitions.
Finally, the report places even more emphasis than before on biodiversity and the protection and restoration of ecosystems, which are essential in maintaining and building resilience.
Half arsed efforts are no longer an option. The extent of the impacts is already greater than expected and the window for action is closing. This report has been described as one of “the bleakest warnings yet”. However, rather than despair, this report calls for urgent and ambitious efforts, because “our actions today will determine how people will adapt to climate change and how nature will respond to increasing climate risks”.
Like all of you, we are concerned and appalled by the war in Ukraine which of course, remains a focus of the news. We are however outraged and concerned by the complete lack of media coverage on the IPCC report. Here are some links to learn more and to share, so that more people can connect with this important information!
Words: Alice de Chilly