There are multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now, said scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released on Monday.
"Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits," said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.
"This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all."
In 2018, IPCC highlighted the unprecedented scale of the challenge required to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Five years later, that challenge has become even greater due to a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are insufficient to tackle climate change.
More than a century of burning fossil fuels as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land use has led to global warming of 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This has resulted in more frequent and more intense extreme weather events that have caused increasingly dangerous impacts on nature and people in every region of the world.
Every increment of warming results in rapidly escalating hazards. More intense heatwaves, heavier rainfall and other weather extremes further increase risks for human health and ecosystems. In every region, people are dying from extreme heat.
Climate-driven food and water insecurity is expected to increase with increased warming. When the risks combine with other adverse events, such as pandemics or conflicts, they become even more difficult to manage.
The report, approved during a week-long session in Interlaken, brings in to sharp focus the losses and damages "we are already experiencing and will continue into the future, hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems especially hard. Taking the right action now could result in the transformational change essential for a sustainable, equitable world".
"Climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected," said Aditi Mukherji, one of the 93 authors of this Synthesis Report, the closing chapter of the Panel's sixth assessment.
"Almost half of the world's population lives in regions that are highly vulnerable to climate change. In the last decade, deaths from floods, droughts and storms were 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions," she added.
In this decade, accelerated action to adapt to climate change is essential to close the gap between existing adaptation and what is needed.
Meanwhile, keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels requires deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors.
Emissions should be decreasing by now and will need to be cut by almost half by 2030, if warming is to be limited to 1.5 degrees.
The solution lies in climate resilient development. This involves integrating measures to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in ways that provide wider benefits.
For example: access to clean energy and technologies improves health, especially for women and children; low-carbon electrification, walking, cycling and public transport enhance air quality, improve health, employment opportunities and deliver equity.
The economic benefits for people's health from air quality improvements alone would be roughly the same, or possibly even larger than the costs of reducing or avoiding emissions.
Responding to the IPCC report, Anjal Prakash, Research Director, Bharti Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business, told IANS, "The report confirms the earlier findings of the six reports produced by IPCC in the 6th Assessment cycle."
"It reaffirms that climate hazards are projected to increase in every region in the near term, resulting in multiple risks to ecosystems and humans. These hazards include heat-related human mortality and morbidity, food and water-borne diseases, mental health challenges, flooding in coastal and low-lying cities, biodiversity loss, and decreased food production. Cryosphere-related changes in floods and landslides have the potential to lead to severe consequences for people, infrastructure, and the economy in most mountain regions."
"Increased frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation will also result in rain-generated local flooding. These projections have medium to high confidence levels, depending on the hazard and ecosystem, and suggest the urgent need for climate action to mitigate the impacts of climate change."
India is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
"Policymakers in India must take these findings seriously and prioritise urgent action to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change," he said.
Christian Aid's Chief of Policy, Oliver Pearce, said: "The science is clear, the world is not on track to deal with the biggest threat posed to humankind. If politicians continue to take us down this path we face the prospect of worsening droughts, floods and storms with the poorest and most vulnerable people bearing the brunt."
"That is why it's imperative that nations start to provide money, following the agreement to create a Loss and Damage Fund last year, so that financial support can urgently reach the most vulnerable communities."
Harjeet Singh, Head of Global Political Strategy, Climate Action Network International, told IANS that the new IPCC report shows the writing clearly on the wall.
"Governments have no excuse to ignore the emphatic warning for this critical decade. They must act fast to reject fossil fuels and stop any new expansion of oil, gas and coal. The blueprint for climate action presented by the IPCC is not short of solutions and infused with enough hope."
"Every fraction of a degree of warming puts us closer to breaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius survival threshold. The governments must strengthen efforts to protect communities from worsening and irreversible climate impacts, such as sea-level rise and melting of glaciers, which pose an existential threat to many communities."
"Scaling up finance must be the key lever to make the transition to a climate stable future in a just and equitable manner," Singh added.
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