Now Reading
Climate Change Widespread and Irreversible, New UN Flagship Climate Report Says

Climate Change Widespread and Irreversible, New UN Flagship Climate Report Says

Albatrosses fly over the waters off the Falkland Islands. Photo: Fer Nando/Unsplash

  • The IPCC released the second installment of its AR6 report on climate change, titled ‘Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’, on February 28.
  • Climate change has caused “substantial damages” and “increasingly irreversible losses”, the report says, listing numerous observed and predicted consequences.
  • “The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal” the report reads. “Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health.”

Kochi: We need to adapt better to climate change now, before it is too late.

That’s the crux of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN body that assesses the science related to climate change, released on February 28.

Titled ‘Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’, the report focuses on the impacts of climate change, vulnerabilities of various regions to climate change and the urgent need to tackle these through various adaptive strategies across the world.

According to the latest report, human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting people around the world, despite efforts to reduce risks. People and ecosystems least able to cope are the hardest hit, said scientists in the report.

The report also adds that while the world is seeing numerous adaptive measures to counter climate change, there are several gaps in these strategies. Working on them now could be crucial for the future, it says.

Biggest ‘impact report’

The document, produced by Working Group II, is the second installment of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the IPCC, which will be completed in 2022.

In August last year, the IPCC’s Working Group I had released the first AR6 report, ‘Climate Change 2021 The Physical Science Basis’, which focused on the impact of human activity on climate change.

Around 270 scientists from 67 countries contributed to the latest report. More than 190 governments approved the report, after a two-week virtual exercise from February 14, wherein government representatives scrutinised the report, in dialogue with report authors.

According to an IPCC press release, it is the biggest assessment of the impacts of climate change and the strategies to adapt to it since the release of the AR5 report in 2014.

Climate change has caused “substantial damages” and “increasingly irreversible losses” in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems worldwide, the latest report says. The extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in previous assessments, it adds.

The report lists the various observed and predicted impacts and risks due to climate change across the world.

South Asia, for instance, could face several impacts. By the mid-21st century, international transboundary river basins of rivers including the Ganges could face severe water scarcity challenges due to climatic variability and changes acting as stress multipliers, the report says. Asian countries could also experience an increase of drought conditions (5-20%) by the end of this century.

Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage, the report notes.

“Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions,” it warns.

As per the report, climate change impacts are expected to intensify with additional warming, for it could interact with multiple other societal and environmental challenges including a growing population, unsustainable consumption, land degradation and biodiversity loss. It stresses that climate change has affected not only ecosystems (through extreme weather events, sea level rises and ocean acidification, for example) but human societies too. There is evidence of physical and mental health of people being affected, the report says.

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC, in a press release. “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.”

Adaptation is critical

Adaptation could be critical now. Cities, for instance, are hotspots of climate change impacts and risks, but they are also a crucial part of the solution, the report says.

“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,” said IPCC Working Group II co-chair Debra Roberts in a press release.

It’s not all bad: there’s growing evidence that many regions are indeed adapting to climate change through various adaptive strategies. That’s a huge shift since the AR5 report, Chandni Singh, senior research consultant at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru, and one of the drafting authors of the report, told The Wire Science.

“However, it is not at the scale that is needed for the kind of climate impacts and risks that we’re seeing.”

There are numerous efficient adaptive strategies that can be implemented, the report specifies. It lists various adaptation measures that different regions can take in the light of climate change. Addressing financial, governance, institutional and policy constraints can help overcome some of the adaptation limits that have been reached.

Adaptive actions that focus on the short-term or on sectors or risks in isolation, also run the danger of ‘maladaptation’ when they cause adverse climate-related outcomes, often as an unintended consequence. Since the AR5 report, there has been increased evidence of such maladaptation across regions, the new report says. These can create added vulnerabilities, and “exacerbate existing inequalities”, according to the report.

The report also makes a case for climate-resilient development, the process of implementing adaptation and mitigation measures to support sustainable development. Evidence of observed impacts, projected risks, levels and trends in vulnerability, and adaptation limits, demonstrate that worldwide climate resilient development action is more urgent than previously assessed in AR5, the report says.

“The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal,” the report reads.

“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.”

Scroll To Top