People participate in a protest rally during a global day of action on climate change in Glasgow, the UK. Photo: AFP
Nearly 200 nations are expected to kick off a virtual UN meeting Monday to finalize what is sure to be a harrowing catalog of climate change impacts – past, present and future.
Species extinction, ecosystem collapse, mosquito-borne disease, deadly heat, water shortages and reduced crop yields are already measurably worse due to global heating. Just in 2021 the world has seen a cascade of unprecedented floods, heat waves and wildfires across four continents.
All these impacts will accelerate in the coming decades even if the carbon pollution driving climate change is rapidly brought to heel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is likely to warn.
A crucial, 40-page Summary for Policymakers – distilling underlying chapters totaling thousands of pages, and reviewed line-by-line – is to be made public on February 28.
“This is a real moment of reckoning,” said Rachel Cleetus, Climate and energy policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“This [is] not just more scientific projections about the future,” she told AFP.
“This is about extreme events and slow-onset disasters that people are experiencing right now.”
The report will also underscore the urgent need for “adaptation” – climate-speak which means preparing for devastating consequences that can no longer be avoided, according to an early draft seen by AFP in 2021.
In some cases this means that adapting to intolerably hot days, flash flooding and storm surges has become a matter of life and death.
“Even if we find solutions for reducing carbon emissions, we will still need solutions to help us adapt,” said Alexandre Magnan, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris and a co-author of the report.
IPCC assessments are divided into three sections, each with its own volunteer “working group” of hundreds of scientists.
In August 2021, the first installment on physical science found that global heating is virtually certain to pass 1.5 C, probably within a decade.