EXPERT VIEWS - IPCC climate report: Adapt now for liveable future on hotter planet

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 28 February 2022 11:00 GMT

Children clean chairs following two days of heavy rains that swelled rivers and damaged homes, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, February 2, 2022. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

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Climate scientists, officials and campaigners discuss new IPCC report, which details a "rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future"

By Megan Rowling

BARCELONA, Feb 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More frequent and intense heat, heavy rain, drought and other climate change impacts are damaging nature, people and the places they live, scientists warned in a key report on Monday.

And just as efforts to reduce planet-heating emissions have lagged, so have measures to adapt to global warming, in order to protect societies, economies and ecosystems, they said.

Any further delay will mean missing "a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all", said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in a report approved by 195 governments.

The 270 scientists that worked on it called for a shift to a new model of "climate-resilient development".

But they said this would become harder to achieve - even impossible in some regions - if global warming exceeds an internationally agreed limit of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius (2.7-3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century.

The planet has already heated up by about 1.1C - and a rise of 1.5C could be reached as soon as the early 2030s, scientists predict.

Efforts to adapt to climate change and slash emissions will be more effective with stepped-up funding, technology-sharing, political commitment and partnerships targeting equity and justice for the most vulnerable communities, the report added.

Here are selected comments from climate scientists, officials, campaigners and other key observers on the report:

Hoesung Lee, chair, IPCC:

"This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction. 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... Half measures are no longer an option."

Antonio Guterres, United Nations secretary-general:

"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.

"... People and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change. 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.

"The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal. The world's biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home."

Antony J. Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State:

"The report today from the (IPCC) is a reminder that the climate crisis threatens us all, in every region of the world and across every sector of the economy. It also demonstrates why the international community must urgently continue to pursue ambitious climate action, even as we face other pressing global challenges.

"We know the significant risks climate change poses to our health and safety, and we know the climate plays a decisive role in shaping the trajectory of peace and prosperity in the world. While political and economic decisions are the primary drivers of conflict, climate change will increase as a threat to global and local stability."

Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy and climate change communicator:

"Take almost anything we already know to be wrong with the world - from hunger, poverty, and lack of access to basic sanitation and healthcare in low-income countries, to the treatment of indigenous people and racial injustices in high-income countries – and the climate emergency is making it harder to solve.   

"Crucially, however, (the report) also makes it clear that now is not the time to abandon hope.

"... From how we produce our food and plan our cities, to how we protect our most valuable ecosystems and work to secure the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, the IPCC makes clear there is potential to adapt our economies and societies and make them more resilient to these emerging threats."  

Teresa Anderson, climate justice lead, ActionAid International:

"This report presents a harrowing catalogue of the immense suffering that climate change means for billions of people, now and for the decades to come. It's the most hard-hitting compilation of climate science the world has ever seen. You can’t read it without feeling sick to your stomach.

"A global system that provides support to climate-vulnerable countries to pick up the pieces and rebuild in the aftermath of climate disasters is long overdue. The COP27 climate negotiations in Egypt later this year must finally agree to a funding facility to address (climate change) loss and damage."

Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and coordinating lead author of the IPCC report:

"This report is a flashing red light, a big alarm for where we are today.

"For the first time, the IPCC explicitly calls out the concern about humanitarian impacts of climate change already occurring today.

"... We are confronted with rising risks of disasters in so many places. But the report also shows that we can do something about it. We just need to raise our ambition dramatically in light of what this report is showing is coming our way."

Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS):     

"SIDS (small island developing states) have suffered and will continue to suffer unprecedented damage if global temperatures continue to rise, particularly if they rise above 1.5C.

"Adaptation is critical to our survival in the face of climate change, but current financing schemes are under-funded and inaccessible to the majority of SIDS.

"Now more than ever, it is paramount that developed nations fulfil the commitment to double adaptation finance and increase funding for SIDS and other climate-vulnerable regions as agreed to in the Glasgow Climate Pact."

Mohamed Nasheed,  former president of the Maldives and speaker of the People’s Majlis:

"The IPCC report is clear that overshooting the 1.5 degrees Paris goal, even temporarily, would lead to irreversible impacts that together comprise outright global catastrophe - with stronger heatwaves, more intense droughts, more extreme floods and stronger cyclones, not to mention the wiping out of entire global ecosystems like coral reefs.

"Most worryingly of all, crossing the 1.5 rubicon may well be a point of no return because of positive feedback loops like thawing permafrost that cause even more heating. Even as we face other threats like war and conflict, the world must not lose sight of the need to act collectively to tackle a crisis that threatens our planetary home and the future of human civilisation."

Michael R. Bloomberg, U.N. secretary-general's special envoy on climate ambition and solutions:

"The IPCC's new report paints a devastating picture of the suffering and disruption that climate change is already causing for growing numbers of people around the world – and the growing costs we're already paying for years of inaction and denial.

"It should cause leaders in the public and private sectors to take a hard look at what they're doing right now to solve the problem and to protect the people and businesses they're responsible for – and it will help the public to hold leaders' feet to the wildfires."

Hans-Otto Pörtner, IPCC Working Group II co-chair, and physiologist and marine biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research: 

"Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change and provide life-critical services such as food and clean water.

"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."

Rachel Licker, principal climate scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists: 

"Today, at about 1.1C of warming above pre-industrial levels, more than 40% of the world’s population is already living in areas highly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as frequent extreme heat, worsening drought and rising sea levels. Some places are experiencing irreversible impacts or extremes so severe that adapting may no longer be a viable option.

"This report spells out in alarming detail how much more is at risk if policymakers fail during this consequential decade to drastically reduce global heat-trapping emissions and adapt to the impacts that are no longer avoidable."    

Sanjayan, CEO, Conservation International:

"As the world's most vulnerable - and least culpable - begin to feel the early effects of a warming planet, it is high time for the Global North (countries) to make good on past promises.

"In addition to expediting carbon mitigation efforts, the world's wealthiest nations must scale up adaptation funding — starting with frontline communities.

"If done right, these investments will not only reduce exposure to climate risk, but also address the biodiversity crisis, resource shortages, and long-standing cycles of economic inequality." 

Jyotsna Puri, associate vice-president, International Fund for Agricultural Development:    

"We need to wake up to the fact that a window is fast closing and there is a point beyond which ecosystems and farmers won’t be able to adapt anymore.

"If small-scale farmers, who grow much of the world’s food, can no longer produce what is required, poverty and hunger will continue to increase, and more global migration, instability and conflicts will follow. Investments and action on adaptation are needed now. There is no time to lose."

Debra Roberts, IPCC Working Group II co-chair, and head of the Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit for eThekwini Municipality (Durban, South Africa):

"Together, growing urbanisation and climate change create complex risks, especially for those cities that already experience poorly planned urban growth, high levels of poverty and unemployment, and a lack of basic services.

"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."

Read more:

IPCC scientists warn climate change losses becoming 'difficult to avoid'

Coastal cities seen unprepared as IPCC flags climate risk hotspots

Kenyan farmers test insurance to ward off climate-driven hunger

(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

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