Climate Breakdown

In my weekly sustainable reports, I’ve focused solely on research reports that are directly relevant to sustainability and on topics upon which individual readers can take action.  This new IPCC report is solid, in terms of the reliability of its research-based information and conclusions.  However, it is both bleak and at a scale that most of us may feel is beyond what we, as individuals, can affect.  I’ll add suggestions about things we each can do.

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IPCC issues

‘bleakest warning  yet’ on

impacts of climate breakdown

 

Report says human actions are causing dangerous disruption,

and window to secure a liveable future is closing

 

Analysis: This report asks: what is at stake? In short, everything

 

 

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

The Guardian

28 Feb 2022

 

Climate breakdown is accelerating rapidly, many of the impacts will be more severe than predicted and there is only a narrow chance left of avoiding its worst ravages, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said.

Even at current levels, human actions in heating the climate are causing dangerous and widespread disruption, threatening devastation to swathes of the natural world and rendering many areas unliveable, according to the landmark report published on Monday.  Hans-Otto Pörtner, a co-chair of working group 2 of the IPCC, said …

 

“The scientific evidence is unequivocal:

climate change is a threat to human

wellbeing and the health of the planet.

 

“Any further delay in concerted global

action will miss a brief and rapidly clo-

sing window to secure a liveable future.”

 

 

Droughts, floods, heatwaves

In what some scientists termed “the bleakest warning yet”, the summary report from the global authority on climate science says droughts, floods, heatwaves and other extreme weather are accelerating and wreaking increasing damage.

Allowing global temperatures to increase by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, as looks likely on current trends in greenhouse gas emissions, would result in some “irreversible” impacts. These include the melting of ice caps and glaciers, and a cascading effect whereby wildfires, the die-off of trees, the drying of peatlands and the thawing of permafrost release additional carbon emissions, amplifying the warming further.

 

 

‘Atlas of human suffering’

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, said:

 

“I have seen many scientific reports in my time,

but nothing like this. Today’s IPCC report is

an atlas of human suffering and a damning

indictment of failed climate leadership.”

 

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, said the report “paints a dire picture of the impacts already occurring because of a warmer world and the terrible risks to our planet if we continue to ignore science. We have seen the increase in climate-fuelled extreme events, and the damage that is left behind – lives lost and livelihoods ruined. The question at this point is not whether we can altogether avoid the crisis – it is whether we can avoid the worst consequences.”

The report says:

 

  • Everywhere is affected, with no inhabited region escaping dire impacts from rising temperatures and increasingly extreme weather.

 

  • About half the global population – between 3.3 billion and 3.6 billion people – live in areas “highly vulnerable” to climate change.

 

  • Millions of people face food and water shortages owing to climate change, even at current levels of heating.

 

  • Mass die-offs of species, from treesto corals, are already under way.

 

  • 5C above pre-industrial levels constitutes a “critical level” beyond which the impacts of the climate crisis accelerate strongly and some become irreversible.

 

  • Coastal areas around the globe, and small, low-lying islands, face inundation at temperature rises of more than 1.5C.

 

  • Key ecosystems are losing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide, turning them from carbon sinks to carbon sources.

 

  • Some countries have agreed to conserve 30% of the Earth’s land, but conserving half may be necessary to restore the ability of natural ecosystems to cope with the damage wreaked on them.

 

Chance to avoid the worst

This is the second part of the IPCC’s latest assessment report, an updated, comprehensive review of global knowledge of the climate, which has been seven years in the making and draws on the peer-reviewed work of thousands of scientists. The assessment report is the sixth since the IPCC was first convened by the UN in 1988, and may be the last to be published while there is still some chance of avoiding the worst.

A first installment, by the IPCC’s working group 1, published last August, on the physical science of climate change, said the climate crisis was “unequivocally” caused by human actions, resulting in changes that were “unprecedented”, with some becoming “irreversible”.

This second part, by working group 2, deals with the impacts of climate breakdown, sets out areas where the world is most vulnerable, and details how we can try to adapt and protect against some of the impacts. A third section, due in April, will cover ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and the final part, in October, will summarise these lessons for governments meeting in Egypt for the UN Cop27 climate summit.

 

 

‘Cataclysmic’ for small islands

Small islands will be among those worst affected. Walton Webson, an ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda and the chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, called the findings “cataclysmic”.

He urged the UN to convene a special session to consider action.

 

“We are continuing to head for a precipice

– we say our eyes are open to the risks.

 

“But when you look at global emissions, if

anything we are accelerating towards the

cliff edge. We are not seeing the action from

the big emitters that is required to get emis-

sions down in this critical decade – this

means halving emissions by 2030 at the latest.

It is clear that time is slipping away from us.”

 

Governments in other parts of the world could help their people to adapt to some of the impacts of the climate crisis, the report says, by building flood defences, helping farmers to grow different crops, or building more resilient infrastructure. But the authors say the capacity of the world to adapt to the impacts will diminish rapidly the further temperatures rise, quickly reaching “hard” limits beyond which adaptation would be impossible.

 

 

‘Global dominoes’

The climate crisis also has the power to worsen problems such as hunger, ill-health and poverty, the report makes clear. Dave Reay, the director of Edinburgh Climate Change Institute at the University of Edinburgh, said:

 

“Like taking a wrecking ball to a set

of global dominoes, climate change

in the 21st century threatens to des-

troy the foundations of food and water

security, smash onwards through the

fragile structures of human and eco-

system health, and ultimately shake

the very pillars of human civilisation.”

 

What is the IPCC climate change report – and what does it say?

 The report plays down fears of conflicts arising from the climate crisis, finding that “displacement” and “involuntary migration” of people would ensue but that “non-climatic factors are the dominant drivers of existing intrastate violent conflicts”.

But Jeffrey Kargel, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in the US, said:

 

“The current warfare activity in eastern Europe,

though not attributable to climate change, is

a further caution about how human tensions

and international relations and geopolitics

could become inflamed as climate change

impacts hit nations in ways that they are

ill-prepared to handle.”

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With the global dire impact described in this report – much of it not in the “soon to come” stage, but already in the “it’s happening now” stage, I’m beginning this epilogue with D’s comments …

 

“The #1 cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels.  The faster the world moves to more sustainable sources of fuel, the healthier Earth will be.  The climate change crisis feels insurmountable.  And yet, if each person does something, anything, or multiple things, Earth can begin to heal.

 

“Let us be reminded of choices you do have : 

 

  • If you own a house, put solar panels on it.
  • If you have a gas-fueled car, make your next car electric.
  • If you cook with gas, transition to induction cooktops.
  • Plant trees. Then … plant more trees.
  • The #2 waste of fuel is for homes; most goes through the roof and is wasted. Insulate more and more.  And seal cracks under doors and through windows;  heat loss due to “infiltration” is huge.

 

“Next, consider another group of actions you can take …

 

  • Buy local food; it cuts the fuel use needed to transport it.
  • Be happy with what you have; don’t keep buying more “stuff.”
  • Grow some of your own food.
  • Travel less on airplanes; jet fuel is one of the more toxic fuels.
  • Pick hobbies – off-hours things you enjoy – that tread more lightly on the Earth.”

 

If you recall …

When the pandemic first struck, people stopped driving to work or most anywhere else, unless absolutely essential.  And ecosystems bounced back more quickly than anyone imagined.  Venice suddenly had fish swimming in their waters that hadn’t been there for decades!  My Garden Atrium development is on what was a dead farm … with no animal or bird life on it at all.  Within a couple of years, it now has a thriving ecosystem.

Finally ...

Corporate businesses will naturally do whatever they can to sustain their business.  So will a little family-owned candy shop.  But the large corporations, via donations, tend to control political leaders far more than the little shop owner.  And they’re multinational, so their impact is global.  They’ve had many decades of warning about the detrimental effect they’re causing.  But change – of any kind – may hurt their businesses, so they’re naturally as reluctant to change as we are to change from personal habits we enjoy.

However … We change if our doctor tells us to change, especially if it’s life threatening. This change, from a life-threatening global situation, will have to come from individuals … from each of us … beginning with the person you see in your mirror.

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