climate change is already having on the world.
Heat waves, droughts, floods, wildfires, more intense storms and other extreme weather, rising seas, saltwater intrusion, whole islands made uninhabitable, ocean acidification, reduced fish populations, crop yield declines, food shortages, species extinctions, severe health effects from spreading disease, massive displacement of human populations and violent conflicts will be or already are the lethal products of climate change that will all worsen even if action is taken immediately. And get much, much worse if it is not.
As the report puts it: “Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts." And, “Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger."
But as Greg Readfern of The Guardian noted, the first IPCC report, which was begun in 1988 and published nearly a quarter of a century ago in 1990, concluded that climate change was "potentially the greatest global environmental challenge facing humankind."
Since that report was issued just two years after NASA scientist James Hansen testified on the problem before Congress, greenhouse gas emissions have risen 60 percent.
Why should anyone pay attention to this fifth report from the panel? Because, IPCC Chairman Rajendra K Pachauri said Sunday, "Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change." As with so many other issues, the poor will catch it worst. They are the most vulnerable, already living on the edge, already burdened by malnutrition and living in marginal areas where climate change will make staying untenable.
More about this and the rest of the report can be found below the fold.
As to who will be affected most, a co-author of the report, Gary Yohe, who teaches economics and environmental studies at Wesleyan University said: “I teach my students that the answer to every economic question is ‘It depends.’ You don’t want to be poor, you don’t want to be young, you don’t want to be old, and you don’t want to live along the coast.”
The response to this crisis, the report states, must include adaptation, mitigation and cutting back greenhouse-gas emissions. The first two will not, as some have claimed, be enough. All three are required. Not to stop climate change, which is well under way, but to reduce the ferocity of its impacts.
A positive note in this otherwise grim report: Some nations and some cities have started taking action, but not nearly enough has been even planned in this regard, much less begun.
Naturally, the deniers—sometimes with lame attempts at humor like this smirking commentary—are shrieking that it's all just alarmist propaganda.
On the contrary, wrote Joe Romm at Climate Progress: The report is indeed alarming, but it's simultaneously "overly cautious."
As grim as the Working Group 2 report on impacts is, it explicitly has very little to say about the catastrophic impacts and vulnerability in the business as usual case where the Earth warms 4°C to 5°C [7°F-9°F]—and it has nothing to say about even higher warming, which the latest science suggests we are headed toward.The sneering deniers have focused on a couple of elements in the report they say proves that human-caused climate change—which they claim, out of ignorance or malice, isn't happening—wouldn't have much economic impact even if it were happening. Their grasping at straws to prove their denial is based on what Romm labels a confusing part of the IPCC report, which states:
The report states:“Relatively few studies have considered impacts on cropping systems for scenarios where global mean temperatures increase by 4°C [7°F] or more.D’oh! You may wonder why hundreds of the world leading climate experts spend years and years doing climate science and climate projections, but don’t bother actually looking at the impacts of merely staying on our current carbon pollution emissions path—let alone looking at the plausible worst-case scenario (which is typically the basis for risk-reducing public policy, such as military spending).
“… few quantitative estimates [of global annual economic losses] have been completed for additional warming around 3°C [5.4°F] or above.”
Partly it’s because, until recently, climate scientists had naively expected the world to act with a modicum of sanity and avoid at all costs catastrophic warming of 7°F let alone the unimaginable 10°F (or higher) warming we are headed toward. Partly it’s because, as a recent paper explained, “climate scientists are biased toward overly cautious estimates, erring on the side of less rather than more alarming predictions.”
“… the incomplete estimates of global annual economic losses for additional temperature increases of ~2°C are between 0.2 and 2.0% of income. Losses are more likely than not to be greater, rather than smaller, than this range. ... Losses accelerate with greater warming, but few quantitative estimates have been completed for additional warming around 3°C or above.”Not only do critics miss the point that keeping the temperature at the ~2°C level going to take prodigious efforts, they fail on another level as well, says Romm. Here's Climate Science Watch:
With respect to global GDP, the WG2 report offers cost estimates only up to 2.5ºC of warming. These impacts are negative, estimated to cost up to 2% of global income, which is acknowledged to be only a partial estimate. In fact, the costs of 2.5ºC of warming laid out in WG2 are something of a best-case scenario (or at least a reasonably good scenario), showing what will happen IF we take strong action to reduce carbon emissions. If we do not take action on climate mitigation, we could be experiencing around 4ºC of warming by 2100 according to the business as usual (RCP 8.5) scenario (WGI Annex II Table 7.5). That’s uncharted territory and possible even within the lifetimes of some who are alive today.In Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry made remarks about the IPCC report that were fairly typical of what he has been saying about climate change since taking over the post:
Other estimates suggest the high impacts on global GDP with warming of 4ºC (For example the Stern Review found impacts of 5-20% of global GDP). GDP also does not fully account for humanitarian disasters to poorer countries. Extreme impacts in poor, tropical areas (which are expected to be the first to experience the most severe disasters) may not significantly affect global GDP because of the low standard of living—but they still matter.
“Read this report and you can’t deny the reality: Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy,” Kerry said, adding, ”Denial of the science is malpractice.”Yes, indeed. Denial is malpractice and a good deal worse. Action now is essential to lessen the effects of climate change.
His statement included an implicit indictment of those in the government who refuse to embrace mitigation efforts. “There are those who say we can’t afford to act. But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic,” he said. At the same time, he emphasized global responsibility for the problems we’re facing. ”No single country causes climate change,” he said, “and no one country can stop it.”
But delay is also denial. And the administration's "all of the above" energy policy is delay. Policy and action trump words every time.