IPCC report delivers more bad news on climate migration
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlighted the looming crisis of climate driven migration as experts increasingly predict mass, permanent migrations caused by climate change in the coming decades.
The report has brought together the world’s latest science to tell us what we know about what causes climate change and what exactly it’s doing to our planet.
It has painted a picture of a world becoming, in some areas more than others, harder for people to live in.
Millions of people are already displaced each year because of weather events like hurricanes, flooding, drought and extreme heat, and the report says that these events will become more frequent as climate change progresses.
But it holds out hope that changes to human behaviour and reductions in the production of greenhouse gasses could still mitigate the steady warming of the planet.
Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years, according to the IPCC report.
“However, strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change. While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize,” the report says
The report provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades, and says that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.
The report shows that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900, and finds that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming.
The prediction is based on improved scientific assessments of historical warming, as well progress in scientific understanding of the response of the climate system to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
IPCC Working Group Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte said: “This report is a reality check. We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.”
The report says many characteristics of climate change directly depend on the level of global warming, but what people experience is often very different to the global average.
For example, warming over land is larger than the global average, and it is more than twice as high in the Arctic.
“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming,” the report said.
It projects that in the coming decades climate change will increase in all regions. For 1.5°C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons.
At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health, the report shows.
But, it says, climate change is bringing multiple different changes in different regions – which will all increase with further warming. These include changes to wetness and dryness, to winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans. For example:
“Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions,” the report says.
“Climate change is affecting rainfall patterns. In high latitudes, precipitation is likely to increase, while it is projected to decrease over large parts of the subtropics. Changes to monsoon precipitation are expected, which will vary by region,” it says.
“Coastal areas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.
“Further warming will amplify permafrost thawing, and the loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic sea ice.
“Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them, and they will continue throughout at least the rest of this century.
“For cities, some aspects of climate change may be amplified, including heat (since urban areas are usually warmer than their surroundings), flooding from heavy precipitation events and sea level rise in coastal cities,” the report says.
The report hammers home the fact that humans are having had a significant influence on past and future climate conditions.
“It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” said Ms Masson-Delmotte.
But the new report also reflects major advances in the science of attribution – understanding the role of climate change in intensifying specific weather and climate events such as extreme heat waves and heavy rainfall events.
Importantly, the report also says that human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate. The evidence is clear that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of climate change, even as other greenhouse gases and air pollutants also affect the climate.
“Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” the report said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change.
It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide political leaders with periodic scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies. In the same year the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by the WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC. It has 195 member states.
Read the full report here: https://www.ipcc.ch/2021/08/09/ar6-wg1-20210809-pr/