Four Big Reasons We Should All Look At The IPCC Climate Report

The new report is part of a series of increasingly dire warnings. Climate chaos is closing in and we need to act.

by Mark Schlosberg

A new report should be making waves, but because of a news cycle focused on other things, it’s being ignored. On February 28, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) released its latest report on climate change. While it didn’t get nearly the attention it deserves, it’s another in a series of increasingly dire warnings about the severity of the climate crisis. It practically bellows the need for bold action, and yet it’s disappearing into the void.

As Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC said:

“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.”

The report is loaded with detail about a litany of impacts, but there were four main themes. 

Climate impacts being felt and some have become irreversible

The report made clear that climate change is here, accelerating, and “has caused substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses.” There are a wide array of impacts including drought, fires, and species loss. While some impacts like species loss are already irreversible, others including glacier retreat, Arctic changes, and mountain ecosystems are approaching irreversibility. 

Climate change is already having significant impacts on food and water, which will only get worse

The mega-drought hammering the western U.S. is the latest example of climate change’s impact on our food and water. According to the IPCC report climate change is having a wide range of impacts on food. These range from ocean acidification’s impact on fisheries to water and food insecurity for millions of people and increased malnutrition. Indigineous communities, small farmers, and low income households are hit the hardest — particularly in Africa, Asia, Central and South America. According to the report:

 “…roughly half of the world’s population currently experience severe water scarcity for at least some part of the year due to climatic and non-climatic drivers.”

Our ability to adapt is limited and we are fast approaching those limits

There are still steps we can take to avoid climate chaos. However, several limits of adaptation have been reached in some areas and others are fast approaching. According to the IPCC, several systems have already approached our surprise adaptation limits including “some warm water coral reefs, some coastal wetlands, some rainforests, and some polar and mountain ecosystems.” Once we reach 1.5 degrees of global warming “some ecosystem-based adaptation measures will lose their effectiveness.”

We still have time to act but we need bold action across the economy. 

We still have time to act, but the window for avoiding catastrophic impacts is rapidly closing. We no longer have time for half measures or long term plans. We need a global mobilization to move off fossil fuels and transform our economy. According to the IPCC this will require significant political commitments and follow through, policies with clear goals, and mobilization of financial resources. It will take a truly global effort. We’ve seen that the U.S. and other countries can make bold, rapid changes in the response to COVID-19. It will take that level of commitment and more to address the climate challenge. 

The report noted: 

“…the cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. 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.”

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