The latest UN climate report is in and, as you've no doubt guessed, it’s not good news: the climate crisis is unfolding rapidly and already threatening billions of people. Unless world leaders and fossil fuel giants up their game immediately, our planet is likely to swirl into climate meltdown even faster than previously appreciated, bringing misery to much of the world's population.
The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — known as the Working Group II report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability — was released on Monday, February 28 after being given the thumbs up from the body of 195 member governments.
Between 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people, around 42 percent of the world’s current population, are living in areas deemed “highly vulnerable” to the impacts of climate change, according to the new report.
If the planet sees a global average temperature increase of over 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) above pre-industrial levels, which is looking increasingly certain based on current trends, the world will experience even more “irreversible” impacts of climate change, such as increased heat waves, droughts, floods, and more. As a consequence, millions and perhaps billions of people could be facing the very real possibility of food and water shortages in this century.
“I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this,” António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said in a statement.
“Today’s IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” he added.
“Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone – now. Many ecosystems are at the point of no return – now. Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frog march to destruction – now,” Guterres explained.
“The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal.”
It’s also clear that the people and ecosystems that are least able to cope with these colossal changes are already some of the hardest hit, such as children, women, Indigenous communities, and less developed countries in the “Global South.” This trend is only set to become worse as the crisis deepens.
"The report states authoritatively that ‘Climate change is contributing to humanitarian crises’. Children, women, and indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable, with an increased risk of migration and violent conflict & food and water shortages," commented Dr Karen Makuch, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Law in Centre of Environmental Policy at Imperial College London.
"There is an anticipated risk of increased adverse physical and mental health. Human rights and justice concerns now need to be at the centre of global climate policy-making," added Dr Makuch.
The IPCC currently agrees that emissions need to be cut by 45 percent by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. However, under current commitments, global emissions are set to increase by almost 14 percent over the current decade.
The main message is one for world leaders, fossil field giants, and big banks: less talk, more action. The world needs to make rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and take accelerated action to adapt to climate change if we are to avoid a severe mounting loss of life, biodiversity, and infrastructure. The world’s powers made plenty of bold promises at the COP26 climate talks late last year, but this report clearly shows that this rhetoric needs to be reflected in real, concrete action ASAP.