According to a UN Report, Half of the World’s Population Is Highly Vulnerable to Climate Change

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    Half of the world’s population is already “highly vulnerable” to the cruel and growing impacts of climate change, and the “criminal” inaction of leaders threatens to reduce the few chances of a “livable future” on the planet, the UN warned.

    The new report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a veritable “atlas of human suffering”. It leaves no room for doubt: the consequences of global warming caused by human activities are not limited to the future. These consequences are droughts, floods, heat waves, fires, food insecurity, water scarcity, diseases, rising water levels.

    Between 3,300 and 3,600 million are already “very vulnerable”, underlines the “summary for those who decide”, negotiated line by line, word by word, by the 195 Member States in this closed-door session that lasted more than 24 hours from the 2 weeks originally planned.

    And this is just the beginning. If the world does not decide very quickly to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it will face a deluge of unavoidable and “sometimes irreversible” impacts in the coming decades. “I have seen many scientific reports during my career, but none like this one”. This is how UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reacted. He described it as “an atlas of human suffering and an indictment of failed climate leadership”.

    The suffering is even more important for the most fragile populations, such as indigenous or poor people, insists the IPCC. But it also affects rich countries; as the terrible floods in Germany or the devastating fires in the United States last year remind us.

    Against this dramatic background, this report should not be overshadowed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, says Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the IPCC group that prepared the document. Global warming “is haunting us, ignoring it is not an option”, he told AFP. The new report from climate experts is “a reminder that the climate crisis threatens us all”, said the head of US diplomacy, Anthony Blinken, last Monday.

    A question of survival

    The planet’s temperature has increased by an average of +1.1°C since the pre-industrial era. The world committed in 2015 with the Paris Agreement to limit warming to well below +2°C, if possible +1.5°C. In the first part of their report published last August, IPCC experts estimated that by 2030 – that is, ten years earlier than thought -the temperature would reach the threshold of +1.5 °C.

    The document published last Monday underlines that even temporarily exceeding the +1.5 °C threshold could cause “irreversible” damage to fragile ecosystems; for example, the poles, coasts and mountains, with cascading effects for the communities that live there. The disastrous consequences will increase with “every additional tenth of warming”.

    The report also anticipates the disappearance of 3%up to 14% of terrestrial species. It also warns that by 2050 about 1 billion people will live in coastal areas at risk. “Adaptation is crucial to our survival,” Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne reacted in a statement. He is also a chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

    Global warming causes melting in the polar areas, with serious consequences for the ecosystem (AFP). Browne urged developed countries to honor their commitment to increase climate aid to poor countries, particularly to enable them to prepare for the catastrophes they herald. A third report on solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be published in April 2022.

    Floating or drowning

    On this point, the report notes that despite some progress, adaptation efforts are mostly “fragmented, small-scale”. Without a change in strategy, the gap between what is needed and what it needs to be done could widen.

    But at a certain point, adapting will no longer be possible. Some ecosystems have already been pushed “beyond their ability to adapt.” Others will join if global warming continues, the IPCC warns, stressing that adaptation and reduction of C02 emissions must go hand in hand.

    “In light of current commitments, global emissions will increase by almost 14% in the current decade. That will be a catastrophe. It will destroy any possibility of keeping the 1.5ºC target alive”, denounced Antonio Guterres, pointing out the big emitting countries as “culprits”. “The abandonment of leadership is a crime”, he warned.

    Despite the noted cataclysm, several states such as China, India and Saudi Arabia tried during the negotiation to withdraw the references to the +1.5 ° C target, several sources who participated in the discussions told AFP.

    The world pledged at the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow in November to step up the fight against global warming and bolster its ambitions ahead of COP27.. in Egypt next November. “Let’s not forget one thing: we are all together in the same boat”, said former Tuvalu Prime Minister,EneleSopoaga. “Either we allow it to float, or we sink and we get all drown”, added this former leader of the small island in the Pacific Ocean.

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