The new climate change report predicted a terrible future for Earth and humankind. Credit: DepositPhotos

Climate Science Report Indicates Our Planet Can’t Keep Up

Overcoming the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius in relation to the pre-industrial period threatens irreversible transformations of terrestrial ecosystems, and the tools available now to adapt to these changes will no longer be useful. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published the second part of its Sixth Report. It is dedicated to identifying and describing the risks inherent in global climate change – they relate to both changes in ecosystems on the planet and specific effects on people’s lives in many areas, from agriculture and healthcare to demography.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body responsible for assessing scientific knowledge related to climate change. The group publishes a review of the scientific literature on climate change every few years, bringing together in a single document several thousand pages long summary of what is happening and will happen to the Earth’s climate.

By 2022, five such reports were published (1990, 1995, 2001, 2007, 2014), the sixth is now in the process of phased publication. The first part of it – the so-called “physical” – came out in August 2021, it was devoted to a comprehensive assessment of the physics of global warming and the assessment of the anthropogenic contribution to this process.

The current part of the report, describing how climate change has already affected the face of the Earth and how it will affect our lives in the near future, was supposed to be released in September 2021, but due to the covid pandemic, its publication was postponed.

About 270 people from 67 countries worked on this part of the report, including Russian specialists. The scientists selected and analyzed more than 34,000 scientific articles.

The current impact of global climate change

According to scientists, the impact of global climate change on the Earth’s marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems has turned out to be wider and has much more consequences than the IPCC assumed in the Fifth Report, published eight years ago. Moreover, the natural response of these ecosystems, which includes changes in physiology, habitats, and adjustments in the seasonal cycles of many species, is often insufficient to adequately adapt.

Anthropogenic climate change has already led to local extinctions of species, causing events of mass death of plants and animals. Particularly affected are species living in regions with extreme temperatures, from cold polar and high mountains to hot equatorial lands. Warming has made conditions at particularly hot spots on Earth effectively unbearable for many of the species that have historically lived there.

And the ranges of polar-adapted animals have shrunk significantly, with species from warmer regions taking over, with the report listing polar bears in the Arctic and emperor penguins in Antarctica among those affected.

The effect of the global temperature

According to scientists, in the very near future, the flora and fauna of the polar and hot regions will live in a climate to which they are poorly adapted. With warming by 1, 6 degrees above 10 percent of species will be threatened with extinction; with a warming of 2.1 degrees, extinction will already threaten 20 percent.

A warming of 3 degrees will make 80 percent of all marine species in the Indian and Pacific Oceans climate-threatening, and after 4 degrees, half of them will die out. The risk of extinction for terrestrial species in the range between 1.5 and 4 degrees increases from 9-14 to 13-39 percent.

With the warming of 4 degrees, the composition of the Amazon forests will change – now the dense tropical cover will become drier and less common. All this, in turn, will affect the carbon cycle on the planet. The risk of extinction for terrestrial species in the range between 1.5 and 4 degrees increases from 9-14 to 13-39 percent.

With the warming of 4 degrees, the composition of the Amazon forests will change – now the dense tropical cover will become drier and less common. All this, in turn, will affect the carbon cycle on the planet. The risk of extinction for terrestrial species in the range between 1.5 and 4 degrees increases from 9-14 to 13-39 percent.

With the warming of 4 degrees, the composition of the Amazon forests will change – now the dense tropical cover will become drier and less common. All this, in turn, will affect the carbon cycle on the planet.

The New Apocalyptic Predictions

Carbon dioxide

We have already touched on climate change and areas directly related to the well-being of people. Regions whose fertility depends on the absorption of carbon dioxide are increasingly suffering from droughts, to which human activities are added: deforestation, the destruction of peatlands and tropical forests, and the melting of permafrost have already affected carbon cycles on the ground.

In some cases, carbon sinks have already become carbon sources. Due to the increase in the volume of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the steppes and meadows are more actively overgrown with trees, and the area of ​​pastures is thus reduced. The structure of coastal ecosystems is also changing, which is also associated with both climate change and the active use of fertilizers rich in carbon dioxide.

Extreme weather

Climate change has affected the frequency of extreme weather events: fires, hurricanes, floods. Some of them are already happening more frequently than researchers thought—more often than even estimates of their average by 2100 had been. In addition to the obvious negative impact on agriculture, industry, and infrastructure, such events are dangerous for local ecosystems, as they are not adapted to survive in such natural disasters.

Droughts and extreme heat, together with heatwaves in 2012, 2016, and 2018, have already caused three times more damage to wheat production in Europe than in the previous half-century. Since 2008, more than 20 million people have been displaced every year by some form of a natural disaster — most commonly storms or floods.

According to scientists, anthropogenic climate change over the past 50 years has slowed the growth of agricultural productivity in the middle and low latitudes. Harvests are suffering due to the use of ozone in the food industry and rising levels of methane in the atmosphere. Warming is reducing crop quality, killing more trees, and harming temperate and taiga biomes.

Ocean warming

Ocean warming from 1930 to 2010 reduced fish catches by 4.1 percent and, together with water acidification, negatively affected many aquacultures. And the increasing frequency of natural disasters has already harmed the stability of sowing and reaping. The inhabitants of tropical Africa, Asia, small islands, Central and South America, and the Arctic have been particularly affected by these effects.

Fresh water

Already about half of the world’s population experiences problems with access to fresh water for a month every year – not only climate change but also inefficient management of water reserves on the ground is to blame for this. The poorest segments of society were particularly affected by these incidents. In addition, all people are increasingly faced with unusual weather events, especially extreme precipitation – showers and snowfalls.

Approximately half a billion people now live in conditions where the average annual rainfall used to occur only once every six years – and 163 million, on the contrary, now live in dry conditions that were not possible here until half a century ago. At the same time, life for most people is rather “wet”: about 709 million people now have more showers on average in their lives; and less often it rains in the regions, where 86 million people live. At the same time, for 700 million people, the dry periods between rainfalls have lengthened.

In general, droughts, floods, and rains have made food prices higher and food availability lower; The productivity of thermo- and hydroelectric power has fallen by 4-5 percent since the 1980s, which has particularly harmed Africa’s economic development. Extreme weather events have significantly affected mortality in vulnerable populations, as well as the number and volume of migration flows. Although many ethnic groups refuse resettlement and continue to live on their lands, conditions are deteriorating more rapidly.

Thermo and hydroelectric power

The productivity of thermo- and hydroelectric power has fallen by 4-5 percent since the 1980s, which has particularly harmed Africa’s economic development. Extreme weather events have significantly affected mortality in vulnerable populations, as well as the number and volume of migration flows. Although many ethnic groups refuse resettlement and continue to live on their lands, conditions are deteriorating more rapidly.

The productivity of thermo- and hydroelectric power has fallen by 4-5 percent since the 1980s, which has particularly harmed Africa’s economic development. Extreme weather events have significantly affected mortality in vulnerable populations, as well as the number and volume of migration flows. Although many ethnic groups refuse resettlement and continue to live on their lands, conditions are deteriorating more rapidly.

Diseases

The warming atmosphere coupled with increased land use has made more areas vulnerable to vector diseases such as the Chikungunya virus in the Americas and Asia, tick-borne encephalitis in Europe, West Nile fever in Eastern and Southern Europe, Asia, and parts of North America. Warmer air, together with increased rainfall and flooding, have increased the spread of waterborne diseases.

Urbanization

The rapid pace of urbanization — 397 million more people lived in cities between 2015 and 2020 — is making life difficult for people as cities grow without considering climate risks. At the same time, many megacities are already beginning to feel their effects, primarily on the coast: this is a rise in sea level and destabilization of the weather regime. The poorest segments of the population suffer the most from them, especially in developing countries where urban development is the least reliable and durable.

The current part of the IPCC report estimates that opportunities for climate-resilient development decline once the global average temperature is 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times. And it will fall with each subsequent division of the thermometer. In 2020, the Earth’s climate was 1.19 degrees warmer than pre-industrial and continued to warm at an ever-increasing rate.

• For additional information, here are the links to the Sixth Assessment Report in full and the “Fact Sheet“, which summarizes the information.


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Sources:

AFP. (n.d.). A major UN Climate Change report was just approved by nearly 200 nations. ScienceAlert.
Freedman, A. (2022, February 28). UN Report: Climate change already so severe humans nearing adaptation limits. Axios.
Harvey, F. (2022, February 28). What is the IPCC climate change report – and what does it say? The Guardian.
Plumer, B., & Zhong, R. (2022, February 28). Climate change is harming the planet faster than we can adapt, U.N. warns. The New York Times.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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