Inaction is no longer an option, as climate change is already disrupting the vulnerable environment and human life. This is stated in the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about climate impact, adaptation and vulnerabilities.
We are already facing a one-degree increase in the Earth’s temperature, and the consequences are noticeable. If the temperature increases any more, then the damage will only get worse and lead to irreversible damage in several areas, more specifically vulnerable ecosystems and low-lying coastal areas, according to the report.
Chair of the IPCC Hoesung Lee therefore issues an urgent warning: “Inaction will have major consequences. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”
The report demonstrates that in many areas, plants and animals already have limited resistance against heat waves, droughts, and floods. This can be seen in the massive loss of our coral, for example. ‘These weather extremes are occurring in quick succession or are overlapping, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. It is particularly noticeable in food insecurity and water shortages, such as in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, on small islands such as Hawaii, and in the Arctic.’
Half-baked measures no longer an option
Immediate action must be taken to make adapting to the climate possible, according to the report. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions must decrease, preferably to under 1.5 degrees. According to the report, adaptation measures are implemented with too many fits and starts globally. IPCC lead author and Associate Professor of Public Administration at Wageningen University & Research Robbert Biesbroek: ‘Accelerating adaptation is necessary to limit future risks, but scaling up initiatives has proven difficult in practice. There are many plans, but the implementation must really get started now. This acceleration requires political will and decisiveness, combined with sufficient resources, knowledge, instruments, and collaboration. Those are often lacking.’
The approach taken by different countries varies widely. In particular, lower-income countries are well behind when it comes to adaptations. Chair of the IPCC Hoesung Lee emphasises: ‘Half-baked measures are no longer an option.’
Strengthening nature to maintain a liveable earth
The report also shows nature’s own potential for managing climate change. Co-chair of the IPCC Hans-Otto Pörtner: ‘If we manage to conserve 30 to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater, and ocean habitats, then everyone can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store CO2. But this requires political support and money.’
The report also points out that climate change interacts with urbanisation, social inequalities, and pandemics, for example. ‘Everyone – government, the private sector, civil society – must work together and come up with solutions for taking on these threatening factors. It is in everyone’s interest to bring together scientific and technological know-how as well as indigenous and local knowledge for this,’ says Debra Roberts, co-chair of IPCC Working Group 2.
Impacts and risks: the hotspots
This report provides a detailed assessment of the impact of climate change, the risks, and the options for climate adaptation for cities and other locales. ‘Heatwaves, storms, droughts, and floods as well as rising sea levels are real threats for cities with a poor infrastructure and high levels of poverty,’ says Debra Roberts. ‘However, there are opportunities for action, such as green buildings, renewable energy, and sustainable transport systems that can connect urban and rural areas. All of this can contribute to a more inclusive and fairer society where everyone, including indigenous peoples, must be involved in the planning.’