Everyone — and everything — is vulnerable to rising global temperatures, with impacts already worse than previously predicted, says a landmark climate change report released Monday. More warming, it concludes, could permanently alter the planet as we know it.
“The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health,” hundreds of scientists wrote in a summary of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
Any further delay in addressing the crisis by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and sensibly adapting to warming, they warned, “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
Called “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,” this is the second of three appraisals that together make up the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report. Steadily predicting global warming since 1990, these are the most definitive assessments on the climate crisis, produced by the world’s leading body of scientific experts on climate change and approved by officials from all 195 countries around the globe.
The first report was released last August in the latest round, providing a technical analysis of current and future climate impacts. The second focuses on what those impacts mean for humanity — a litany of grim near certainties — and solutions to adapt to them. The third report, to be released in a few months, will look at ways to prevent additional warming. All of the reports follow years of scientific panels writing each chapter, carefully weighing and evaluating the latest evidence of climate change.
Scientists and policymakers from around the world gathered virtually for two weeks to finalize this report. During this time, Russia invaded Ukraine and that conflict spilled into the climate world. Some Ukrainian scientists and climate campaigners participating in the discussions last week withdrew due to the conflict, Climate Home reported.
Then over the weekend, Oleg Anisimov, the head of the Russian delegation, reportedly made a surprise apology to Ukraine. “Let me present an apology on behalf of all Russians not able to prevent this conflict,” Anisimov said, according to AFP, a moment of high drama as war rages even while climate scientists worry over Earth’s future.
The planet has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels, and the associated climate impacts are already worse than scientists had predicted, even as recently as 2014 when the previous Fifth Assessment Report was published.
This was “one of the most striking conclusions in our report,” said Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas at Austin, a report lead author, in a briefing for reporters. She then went on to list some things that have already happened but weren’t expected for current warming levels: diseases emerging into new areas, such as forests in North America; the first extinctions of species due to climate change; and the mass mortality of trees and animals with droughts and heat waves.