An expert group of 270 climate scientists warns the dire impacts of climate change soon will be irreversible unless governments act decisively to tackle these imminent global threats.
Hoesung Lee, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, does not mince words. He said the stakes of our planet have never been higher.
“Human activities have warmed the planet at a rate not seen in at least the past 2,000 years. We are on course to reaching global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades and temperatures will continue to rise unless the world takes much bolder action,” said Lee.
He said the action governments take today will shape how people will be able to adapt to climate change and how nature will respond to increasing climate risks.
Debra Roberts is co-chair of the IPCC Working Group II, which produced the report. She said the scientific evidence that climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet is unequivocal.
“Climate change combines with unsustainable use of natural resources. Habitat destruction, deforestation, and growing urbanization as well as inequity and marginalization … 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in global hotspots of high vulnerability to climate change,” said Roberts.
These include parts of Africa, as well as South Asia, Central and South America, small islands, and the Arctic. The report warns that people living in these hotspots will likely experience severe food shortages, leading to malnutrition, should global temperatures rise by two degrees Celsius by 2050.
Despite these dire predictions, scientists say the report presents a reality check on what has been done to stem global warming and what remains to be done. They say the report offers solutions on how to adapt to climate change and mitigate their worst effects.
Scientists say some challenges can be addressed by creating a more equitable and sustainable world, by moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and by using indigenous knowledge to protect nature.
These steps, along with adaptation and mitigation projects, can help create change, but poorer countries will need wealthier countries to help finance them.