A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations released Monday details “an atlas of human suffering and the damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
The second of three planned reports, entitled “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,” stressed the interconnectivity of biodiversity and human communities on a local and global scale. It pointed out that while past wisdom prioritized mitigation strategies that reduce carbon emissions, climate change has progressed to a point today where adaptation strategies that reimagine life in a warmer world are now equally critical.
Guterres stressed that investment in adaptation works and that the changes made will be lifesaving if policymakers act fast, saying “delay means death” in reference to the most vulnerable regions of the world.
The first report in the series was released last August, and it found that the world is on track to warm more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, widely considered a threshold after which adapting to the impacts of climate change would become significantly more difficult.
The expected warming is currently closer to three degrees Celsius according to Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.
Similar to the last report from the IPCC, the report had 270 authors from 67 countries, and referred to 34,000 scientific papers.
Co-chairs of Working Group II on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Debra Roberts and Dr. Hans-Otto Pörtner presented a summary of the findings that provide “our best understanding yet” of climate science.
“Any further delay in concerted global action will miss the brief, rapidly closing window to secure a livable future. This report offers solutions to the world,” said Roberts.
The report found that 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in global hotspots. These are mostly across large parts of Africa, South Asia, South America, small islands and the Arctic. These communities face some similar challenges, as many individuals such as farmers or fishermen have very climate-sensitive livelihoods.
Nature’s crucial services are at risk in a warming world, said Pörtner.
“Nature’s services support all aspects of our lives, from pollination to tourism to health and climate regulation,” he said. These ecosystem changes will have “cascading impacts” for humans, meaning single changes will snowball into multiple consequences.
As for adaptation, the report calls for water management, improving food security, and transforming cities. The report also places value on preserving and maintaining natural systems as much as possible.
“I don’t think the report gives a sense of gloom, what it does though is gives a very serious reality check about where we are, and where we might go to, but also provides us with a sense that we can be agents for change,” said Roberts.
“[It’s] a difficult reality, but action is possible and we need to do it now.”
A third report, focusing on greenhouse gasses, is expected this spring.