RED ALERT: Global warming to hit 3.2 degrees Celsius latest IPCC report warns

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Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chair Hoesung Lee. PHOTO/UN

By PATRICK MAYOYO

Policies in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as of December 2020 would lead the planet to 3.2 degrees Celsius of warming, more than double the 1.5 degrees limit that scientists say is essential for avoiding the worst impacts of the climate change.

That’s the urgent warning from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“The jury has reached the verdict, and it is damning,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters ahead of the report’s release.

Mr Guterres said the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a litany of broken climate promises and was a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put humanity firmly on track towards an unlivable world.

“We are on a fast track to climate disaster. Major cities underwater, unprecedented heat waves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages, the extinction of a million species of plants and animals, and this is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies,” the UN Secretary-General said.

The new report, “Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change,” is the contribution of Working Group III to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report. It had 278 authors from 65 different countries and cited more than 18,000 studies to complete the “scientific trilogy” of the reports that make up the UN panel’s current assessment cycle, IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee told reporters.

The first report, released last summer, focused on the state of global warming, while the second, released last month, focused on risk and adaptation.

“The first two IPCC reports told us that climate change is here and now, and causing huge disruptions in the natural world and to human well being. This report tells us that we’re still not doing enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions,” UN Environment Programme Executive Director Inger Andersen said at the press briefing. 

The report says human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability. It however notes some development and adaptation efforts have reduced vulnerability.

“Biodiversity loss and degradation, damages to and transformation of ecosystems are already key risks for every region due to past global warming and will continue to escalate with every increment of global warming (very high confidence),” the report adds.

CHART/UN

It says risks in physical water availability and water-related hazards will continue to increase by the mid- to long-term in all assessed regions, with greater risk at higher global warming levels (high confidence).

The report observes that at approximately 2°C global warming, snowmelt water availability for irrigation is projected to decline in some snowmelt dependent river basins by up to 20%, and global glacier mass loss of 18 ± 13% is projected to diminish water availability for agriculture, hydropower, and human settlements in the mid- to long-term, with these changes projected to double with 4°C global warming (medium confidence).

“Climate change will increasingly put pressure on food production and access, especially in vulnerable regions, undermining food security and nutrition (high confidence),” the report adds. 

It notes increases in frequency, intensity and severity of droughts, floods and heatwaves, and continued sea level rise will increase risks to food security (high confidence) in vulnerable regions from moderate to high between 1.5°C and 2°C global warming level, with no or low levels of adaptation.

“At 2°C or higher global warming level in the mid-term, food security risks due to climate change will be more severe, leading to malnutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies, concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Central and South America and Small Islands,” it adds.

Climate change risks to cities, settlements and key infrastructure will rise rapidly in the mid- and long-term with further global warming, especially in places already exposed to high temperatures, along coastlines, or with high vulnerabilities.

Globally, population change in low-lying cities and settlements will lead to approximately a billion people projected to be at risk from coastal-specific climate hazards in the mid-term under all scenarios, including in Small Islands.

Climate change and related extreme events will significantly increase ill health and premature deaths from the near- to long-term (high confidence). Globally, population exposure to heatwaves will continue to increase with additional warming, with strong geographical differences in heat-related mortality without additional adaptation.

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