The latest IPCC report, published on 28th February, serves as a stark warning that humanity’s chances of outrunning the devastating impacts of climate change are uncomfortably low.
And while I commend the scientists involved in producing such a critically important analysis, many of whom are members of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG), we must all urgently recognise that these incredibly clear words demand incredibly clear action.
The severity of human influence on our planetary ecosystems has led to a series of irreversible tipping points. The first of these, in the Arctic Circle region, appears already to have tipped, leading to the series of devastating extreme weather events around the Northern Hemisphere last summer. The latest IPCC report is unflinching in its assessment of the narrow range of opportunities we have left to repair the damage, and the days we squander now directly impact humanity’s chances of survival, in any form that would be recognisable to us today.
CCAG member, Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MBE, Environmental Psychologist at the University of Bath, and Lead Author of The Working Group II Report comments further; “we are not on track to achieve a climate resilient, sustainable world. Urgent action is required to adapt to climate impacts, as well as making deep cuts in carbon emissions.
“There are options we can take to adapt, but their effectiveness decreases with increased warming. Any delay at all will mean irreversible impacts and species extinction, such as eradication of tropical coral reefs and loss of polar ice.”
For Dr Arunabha Ghosh, Founder and CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, and member of CCAG, he details the following: “the latest IPCC report, in particular, worries me on three counts. We now have high confidence that the accelerating climate crisis is increasing water-related diseases. Second, we have high confidence that climate change will severely impact food production and food security. Third, droughts and heatwaves will trigger biodiversity loss, as well as human migration.”
And yet, there is a blind spot in the report when we discuss the climate beyond 2100. The younger generations amongst us, alongside future generations, will face climate disaster unless we act now. This is not a challenge for scientists to overcome, it is a moral duty for the whole planet to take urgent, co-ordinated action. Even if warming is limited to 1.5C, humanity and our biodiverse world will face an unstoppable global sea level rise that will exacerbate issues including poverty, inequality, war and food security.
CCAG believes that reducing emissions of CO2 deeply, rapidly and in an ordered manner fair to all is critical, but repairing the climate is now also of utmost priority. We must immediately begin removing excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at scale, while we buy time by rapidly researching ways to protect the ice caps, and complete an ordered transition to a fossil fuel free society.
This is a code red situation. No Government is taking it seriously enough. We must urgently seek productive collaboration between sub-national, national, and international bodies to do more to combat climate issues equitably, with determination and speed.