A United Nations climate impact report gives the clearest and most comprehensive evidence yet that the earth is in deep trouble.
It reinforces the sobering view that climate change is real, it is happening now and affecting the lives and the livelihoods of people as well as the sensitive ecosystems that sustain life.
Samantha Smith, chief of the World Wide Fund Global Climate and Energy Initiative, said the UN report is the second in a four-part series being prepared by the world’s leading climate authorities in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
It assesses the impact, adaptation and vulnerability of human and natural systems, the observed impact and future risks of climate change and the potential for and limits to adaptation.
“The report highlights, for the first time, the dramatic difference of impacts between a world where we act now to cut emissions, which now come mostly from using fossil fuels, and a world where we fail to act quickly and at scale,” Smith said.
“This report also tells us that we have two clear choices: cut emissions now and invest in adaptation, and have a world that has challenging and just barely manageable risks, or do nothing and face a world of devastating and unmanageable risks and impacts,” she added.
Smith said the report makes it clear that the world still has time to act, adding that it can limit climate instability and adapt to some of the changes.
“But without immediate and specific action, we are in danger of going far beyond the limits of adaptation. With this risk posed so clearly, we have to hope that the next IPCC report, which is being released in Berlin in April, will provide us with strong statements on the solutions that we know exist,” she added.
Despite the warnings given by the IPCC in its reports over the past 20 years and reinforced by the release of the report on Friday, WWF’s Sandeep Chamling Rai said the gap between science and what governments are doing remains huge.
“The science is clear and the debate is over. Climate change is happening and humans are the major cause of emissions, driven mainly by our dependence on fossil fuels. This is driving global warming,” Chamling Rai added.
“This report sets out the impacts we already see, the risks we face in the future and the opportunities to act. It has been accepted by the member-governments of the IPCC. Now it is up to people to hold their governments to account, to get them to act purposefully and immediately,” he said.
Chamling Rai stressed that the risks of collective inaction are greatest for developing countries with more people living in poverty and fewer resources to respond to climate disasters.
“We need to put in place those measures that will slow down warming and put us on a fair and just transition to a sustainable world. The report shows that ambitious emissions cuts now can reduce the risk of climate change in the second half of this century,” the official said.