The draft report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns us that life on Earth is at risk if we don’t take immediate and drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global temperatures from rising further.
Agence France-Presse obtained a copy from the draft of 4,000 pages. It states that humanity may have missed an opportunity to prevent the climate passing certain thresholds that will increase the planet’s warming.
The report states that “Life on Earth can recover after a drastic climate change by evolving into new species, and creating new ecosystems.” Humans can’t.
Permafrost melting, which releases methane gas to the atmosphere, are the thresholds or feedback loops. This increases the greenhouse gas effect and pushes temperatures higher. The earth absorbs more heat and ultraviolet radiation from the sun as a result of melting of the polar and sea ice caps. This further increases the risk of ice melting.
“I am not optimistic. It’s not because of those feedbacks. It’s because we have already put so many carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that carbon dioxide lasts very long,” Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist from the Woodwell Climate Research Center told Yahoo News. “A carbon dioxide molecule, on average, can last about 100 years in the atmosphere. We haven’t yet felt any of the effects of carbon dioxide we’ve already added to the atmosphere. Even if we don’t think about feedbacks, there is already a lot more climate-change built into the system simply because it takes time for the climate system adjust to the new levels of greenhouse gases in its atmosphere. The feedback is just magnifying the response.
The earth has warmed by 1.1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times. The IPCC’s 2018 landmark report warned of dire consequences if humankind fails to limit global average temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, most climate scientists believe that it will prove impossible to achieve this goal given the pace at which global emissions continue to rise.
The draft report is being prepared in advance of the November meeting at U.N. Climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. It warns that 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming will force humans to adapt in ways not possible just a few decades ago.
The report states that even at 1.5 degrees Celsius of temperature rise, the conditions will change beyond most organisms’ capacity to adapt. “Current levels will not be sufficient to adapt to climate risks in the future.”
Adapting to this new reality will require significant costs, particularly in areas where resources are already limited.
The report says that Africa’s adaptation costs are expected to rise by tens or billions of dollars each year if there is more than two degrees of warming.
According to the report, another tipping point is the Amazon rainforest basin. This area, where the flora absorbs carbon dioxide, helps keep temperatures from rising, could soon become a savannah.
It is also noted that coasts already suffering from sea-level rise around the globe will have to cope with uninhabitable conditions due to tropical cyclones strengthening. Over time, heat waves such as the one currently affecting the west United States and wildfire seasons which continue to set records all over the globe will only get worse.
The report states that “the worst is yet to happen, affecting our grandchildren’s and children’s lives far more than ours,”
According to the report, there is little time left to avoid dire consequences.
It states that “We require transformational change at all levels: individuals, communities, businesses, institutions, governments” and adds, “We must rethink our way of living and consume.”