This was the message from a recent report issued by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) titled, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. The panel of experts enumerated in the report what impact climate change has wrought already to our planet, what can be expected from it in future years, and what can be done to mitigate its damage.
The IPCC report sought to identify vulnerable people, industries, and ecosystems who are most at risk from climate change. The vulnerability, according to the report, comes from a “lack of preparedness.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, commenting at the time the report was released, echoed the author’s conclusions that human-induced climate change has had profound and devastating consequences globally to our agriculture, water supplies, oceans and human health.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson Mr. Ban said, “To reduce these risks, substantial reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions must be made, along with smart strategies and actions to improve disaster preparedness and reduce exposure to events caused by climate change.” He implored nations to respond to this report in advance of the climate summit on 23 September in New York.
The IPCC Chairperson Rajendra K. Pachauri, speaking at a news conference following the release of the report, highlighted the issues climate change poses. Specifically, the threat to the global food supply, the impact upon species, the increase in floods and the heightened level of conflict in areas of the world where scarcity of resources has, and will, occur as a result of climate change. Those peoples of the world who are especially marginalized are those who are most susceptible to the effects of climate change.
Dr. Pachauri stated that, “The world has to take this report seriously because there are implications for security of food supply, impacts of extreme events on morbidity and mortality, severe and irreversible impacts on species and a risk of crossing various tipping points because of increasing temperatures…” The most striking comment from the IPCC Chairperson was this, “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”
News Does Not Get Any Better
If climate change continues on its current trajectory, the news will certainly not get any better. The report continued to discuss the ramifications that will occur from inaction on the part of governments with respect to climate change.
It noted the following:
- Coastal flooding will kill people and cause destruction.
- Increase in hunger as a result of warming due to droughts and downpours.
- Big cities damaged by inland flooding.
- Water shortages make poor even poorer.
- Storms take a toll on electricity, running water and emergency services.
- Fish and marine life at risk.
- Land animals at risk as well as causing a threat to the livelihoods of those who depend on them.
- Heat waves in cities will kill the most vulnerable amongst us such as the elderly and children.
We have recently witnessed the devastating tornadoes that swept through the southern and Midwestern parts of the U.S. Scientists are studying the connection between tornadic activity and global warming, and whether or not there will be an increase in these deadly storms as a result.
Impoverished Nations Most Vulnerable
Four (4) of the world’s poorest nations are the most vulnerable to a changing climate, according to the World Bank. The global institution identified twelve (12) countries considered at high risk of succumbing to the effects of climate change.
Malawi, located in southern Africa where the average yearly earnings are US$975, finds itself highly prone to droughts, a very significant development as experts predict droughts will increase as a result of climate change. In the past twenty (20) years, Malawi has had two (2) serious droughts that took a terrible toll economically. In addition, children are especially at risk as the food supply dwindles, magnifying the issue of hunger.
Bangladesh makes the list not for the issue of drought, but because of flooding. Glacial melt from the Himalayan ranges occur due to rising temperatures and it runs into the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and the associated tributaries. It is estimated that thirty (30) to seventy (70) percent of this South Asian nation is flooded as the water finds its way to the Bay of Bengal. Climate change will exacerbate the issue of flooding by causing sea levels to rise.
Another Asian nation susceptible to flooding and rising sea levels is Vietnam. According to the World Bank, Vietnam could see thirty-five (35) percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) hit hard from a rise in sea levels; and thirty-five (35) percent of its people submerged by a thirteen (13) foot rise in sea levels.
The largest African nation, Sudan, is comprised of arid land or desert. Their geographical composition places undue stress on agriculture. Climate change will further impact this area. It is located in the Sahel, which the IPCC characterizes as one of the most drought sensitive areas in the world.
Other nations at risk are: the Philippines, Ethiopia, China, India, Madagascar, Egypt, Senegal and Zimbabwe.
Adapting to a Changing Climate
Latin America is a region that is being proactive and is finding creative and cost-effective solutions as our planet continues to change. Peru is working on water resource management projects; Bolivia has two hundred (200) adaptation projects throughout the country; El Salvador, a hard hit nation due to climate change, is working on ways to raise the level of homes prone to flooding; and Mexico is focusing its attention on naturally protected areas in the country to assist in managing climate change.
If a true, honest consensus will be reached on climate change, the United Nations will be where it will happen. The Secretary-General is committed to reaching an agreement on a new climate pact. The leader of the global body is presently in Abu Dhabi for a meeting on global warming.
Speaking at the gathering Mr. Ban said, “If we do not take urgent action, all our plans for increased global prosperity and security will be undone.”
The report by the IPCC highlighted steps for governments to take to lessen the effects of climate change on a global level. However, there are number of things that each one of us can do on a local level as well to assist in minimizing the deadly consequences of climate change going forward.