The most comprehensive assessment to date of the social, economic and ecological consequences of human-induced climate change was released by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Japan today.
The IPCC, a collective of hundreds of scientists and other experts from around the world, provides a stark illustration of the likely consequences of climate change if we continue to emit greenhouse gas emissions and destroy forests and other carbon sinks at current rates.
The report warns that without the adequate mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and the implementation of suitable adaptation strategies, the changes to Earth’s climate system under ‘business as usual’ scenarios pose very real risks to undermining growth, progress and human welfare. In short, undoing decades of progress made in international development.
This is turn, the report cautions, presents a greater risk of violent conflicts, such as civil wars, by augmenting evidenced ‘drivers’ such as poverty, natural resource scarcity, and economic instability. The report also states that climate change will increase the risk of the unplanned displacement of people and lead to changes in migration patterns.
It may be some decades until we start seeing the worst impacts of climate change manifest. And, whilst there is definitely still time to curb our emissions and reduce the intensity and frequency of the impacts we will see, the negative effects of climate change are already being felt across the world.
The Government of Kirabati, for example, claims that its freshwater supplies have already been affected by the intrusion of salt water due to sea level rise caused by anthropogenic climate change. Indigenous Alaskans know they must relocate due to erosion of their village by rising sea levels, but they do not have the $130 million required to migrate. It’s not clear who exactly is responsible for financing such adaptation solutions.
Over in Panama, scientists from the Smithsonian Research Institute estimate that the indigenous Kuna people, who have been living on the islands of the San Blas archipelago for thousands of years, will be inevitably displaced within the next 20-30 years. Even in the United Kingdom and Australia, aspects of recent flooding and bushfire events can be attributed to climate change.
Importantly, the groups and populations likely to be most harmed by climate change are developing countries and the poorer citizens of nations that are the least responsible for emissions, and who have the least resources to cope with its consequences. Climate change, therefore, represents a “double injustice”, making it one of the most pressing concerns for global development.
Read the IPCC’s ‘Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: Summary for Policy-Makers’ and the full report, including chapters on the implications of climate change for ‘Livelihoods and Poverty’, ‘Human Health’ and ‘Human Security’.
To get up to speed with climate science, climate change and its impacts, and to help you to understand how it might affect your sector and assist you in considering how you might mainstream adaptation and mitigation activities through your own work program, you might want to try one of the following *free* e-learning courses:
- Climate Change (University of Melbourne on Coursera)
- An Introduction to the Science of Climate and Climate Change (University of Oxford)
- Environment, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction E-Learning Portal (Australian Government DFAT)
- Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided (The World Bank on Coursera)
- Lived Experience of Climate Change (Open University)