BERLIN – Human-caused climate change is having a widespread effect on the planet, and leaders around the globe should speed up their efforts to address it.
That was the message laid out Tuesday in a new report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that painted a bleak future for Earth if climate change continues on its current trajectory.
"This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction," said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC, in a statement about the report. "It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks."
The planet is already seeing increased heatwaves, droughts and floods, which are exceeding the ability of some plants and animals to adapt, according to the report. Some species of trees and corals have been driven to mortality by the extreme weather, according to the report.
According to the report, if the planet were to exceed the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), even temporarily, it would lead to additional and possibly irreversible impacts.
"This report recognizes the interdependence of climate, biodiversity and people and integrates natural, social and economic sciences more strongly than earlier IPCC assessments," said Hoesung Lee. "It emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option."
Some of the places being hardest hit by climate change already are places least equipped to adapt, such as Africa, Central and South America, the small islands and the Arctic.
"Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone now," said U.N. Secretary General António Guterres. "Many ecosystems are at the point of no-return now. Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world's most vulnerable on a frogmarch to destruction now. The facts are undeniable, this abdication of leadership is criminal."
What can be done?
While the findings are a stark reminder of the looming consequences of inaction, the report also laid out ways that we may stave off the damage to the planet. According to the report, protecting more of nature may be an ally when it comes addressing climate change.
"Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change and provide life-critical services such as food and clean water", said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Hans-Otto Pörtner. "By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30% to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store carbon, and we can accelerate progress towards sustainable development, but adequate finance and political support are essential."
The report also said cities can pivot to creating green buildings, sustainable transportation systems and renewable energy as ways to address climate change.
IPCC: Time is running out
However, Pörtner said that the time left to address the issue is shrinking.
"Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future," said Hans-Otto Pörtner.
More than 60 counties contributed to the report, including more than two dozen scientists from the U.S.