IPCC report paints bleak picture of our future

UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contains little comfort on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability

Mr Vicente Barros, IPCC Working Group II co-chair, stressed the importance of adapting to climate change. Photograph: EPA

Mr Vicente Barros, IPCC Working Group II co-chair, stressed the importance of adapting to climate change. Photograph: EPA

Tue, Apr 1, 2014, 01:00

A bleak picture for humanity, depending on how much the world actually warms in the 21st century, is painted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Anybody who sees some benefits in global warming, such as being able to run vineyards in our high latitudes, will find little comfort in a summary of the full report on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability released yesterday morning in Yokohama, Japan.

Whether it’s dealing with food production, fresh water, ocean acidifica tion, species loss, human security or the global economy the scientists are now telling us – with even greater conviction – that we’re all at serious risk from changing climate.

The IPCC working group that produced the report could rely on an ever-growing volume of scientific literature on climate change, which has doubled since it published its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, and they can spell out with more certainty the dangers we face.

A word count by the Red Cross found that “risk” is mentioned more than 230 times in the summary, compared to just over 40 times in the previous report.

Future hypothetical
“We are now in an era where climate change isn’t some kind of future hypothetical,” said group co-chair Dr Chris Field.

Fellow co-chair Vicente Barros stressed the importance of adapting to climate change.

“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.”

Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson also urged action.

“If we act now it will cost less than confronting the increasingly significant impacts of climate change on all aspects of life – affecting everything from the costs of food and insurance to the costs associated with extreme events.”

Prof Barry McMullin, chair of An Taisce’s climate change committee, said Ireland would experience “direct effects”, including more extreme weather and escalating food prices.

“We need radical reductions in emissions [of greenhouse gases], starting now.”

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said the report “more clearly than ever points to the extreme risks posed by climate change, as well as the many opportunities to put the world on a safer and more resilient path” by combining emissions cuts with building resilience.

“Early, co-ordinated action among governments at international, national, local and city level, businesses, communities and households everywhere is essential to achieve the best sustainable results.”

Agreement
Ms Figueres has her eye on making real progress this year – via the next UN climate change conference in the Peruvian capital Lima – towards achieving an internationally-binding agreement to curb global warming at the 21st annual climate conference in Paris in December 2015.

To nudge things along UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is convening a climate summit of world leaders at its headquarters in New York in September. And the IPCC’s work, to be supplemented by a third volume on mitigation later this month , should help to focus minds.

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