It is now unequivocal that "climate change is a threat to the human well-being and planetary health" and "any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all," the latest UN report said on Monday.
Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks. People and ecosystems least able to cope are being the hardest hit, the report stated and suggested safeguarding and strengthening nature as a key to securing a liveable future. And that, the cities that are hotspots of impacts and risks are also a crucial part of the solution, scientists said in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
"This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction," said IPCC chair Hoesung Lee. "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 world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era. Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible.
Risks for society will increase, including infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements. The Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group II report, 'Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability' was approved by 195 member governments of the IPCC, through a virtual approval session that was held over two weeks starting from February 14.
Earlier, in August 2021, the IPCC had released the report of the Working Group I while the Working Group III will be brought out in April this year, followed by the concluding Synthesis Report further in September 2022. The IPCC AR6 Cycle is the first since the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015 - a global framework for climate policies, solutions, and actions to keep emissions in check to restrict temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era.
Increased heatwaves, droughts, and floods are already exceeding plants' and animals' tolerance thresholds, driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These weather extremes are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central, and South America, on Small Islands, and in the Arctic.
Ambitious, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change to avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity, and infrastructure, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. So far, progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks, the new report finds.
"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." The report also provides a detailed assessment of climate change impacts, risks, and adaptation in cities, where more than half the world's population lives.
People's health lives, and livelihoods, as well as property and critical infrastructure, including energy and transportation systems, are being increasingly adversely affected by hazards from heatwaves, storms, drought, and flooding as well as slow-onset changes, including sea-level rise. Said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts, "But cities also provide opportunities for climate action - green buildings, reliable supplies of clean water and renewable energy, and sustainable transport systems that connect urban and rural areas can all lead to a more inclusive, fairer society."
The report also warned of how there is increasing evidence of adaptation that has caused unintended consequences, for example destroying nature, putting peoples' lives at risk, or increasing greenhouse gas emissions. "This can be avoided by involving everyone in planning, attention to equity and justice, and drawing on indigenous and local knowledge," it said.
Climate change is a global challenge that requires local solutions and that's why, possibly for the first time, the current report provides extensive regional information to enable Climate Resilient Development, be it how people tackle floods in Bihar or how Odisha's Indigenous communities have survived cyclones for centuries. The report clearly states Climate Resilient Development is already challenging at current warming levels. It will become more limited if global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In some regions, it will be impossible to live if global warming exceeds 2 degrees Celsius. "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 closing window to secure a liveable future," warned IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Hans-Otto Portner. Said Senior Adviser, Climate Action Network International, Harjeet Singh, "Today's IPCC report holds up a mirror to the current reality of climate change and its impacts on people and the planet.
The science is now conclusive - and governments have endorsed this - we are in the era of unavoidable climate disasters causing loss and damage." "The report makes it clear that there is inadequate financial, governance, and institutional support for adaptation and for addressing loss and damage. Rich countries must scale up funding to enable developing countries to prepare for unavoidable climate impacts. They must take concrete steps to set up a finance facility for loss and damage at the annual COP27 climate conference in Egypt to be held later this year," he said.