Hoor Asrar is concerned about growing cliamate depradation
Cries about the unstoppable deterioration in UN warns of growing climate crisis affairs are rising by the day and these claims are spearheaded by the United Nations that is committed to goad the world to take potent action against climate difficulties. In this context the UN has published a new report revealing climate impacts, vulnerable communities and adapting to rising temperatures spells out the grave and mounting threats the world faces. The report’s release three months after global leaders met at a climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, highlighted the urgency of efforts to contain global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial temperatures. Breaching that threshold will deliver irreversible damage to the planet and every increment of warming will cause more pain.
Already at least 3.3 billion people’s daily lives are highly vulnerable to climate change and 15 times more likely to die from extreme weather. Large numbers of people are being displaced by worsening weather extremes and the world’s poor are being hit by far the hardest. More people are going to die each year from heat waves, diseases, extreme weather, air pollution and starvation because of global warming. Just how many people die depends on how much heat-trapping gas from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas gets spewed into the air and how the world adapts to an ever-hotter world. With every tenth of a degree of warming, many more people die from heat stress, heart and lung problems from heat and air pollution, infectious diseases, illnesses from mosquitoes and starvation.
The report is the latest in a series by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) detailing the latest global consensus on climate science. This report, however, focuses on how nature and societies are being affected and what they can do to adapt. On nearly all counts, the report makes it clear that climate change is impacting the world far faster than scientists had anticipated. Meanwhile, countries have failed to rein in planet-warming carbon emissions, which continue to rise. Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frog-march to destruction and facts in this connection are undeniable.
There are widespread and pervasive impacts of climate change, including increases in weather extremes, with some irreversible effects as humans and nature are pushed beyond their ability to adapt to rising temperatures. The report has pointed out that global warming has caused irreversible losses in natural systems, with mass die-offs of corals and trees, half of species assessed globally shifting towards the poles or high altitudes and the first extinctions driven by climate change.
The report has emphasised that the adverse climate change has badly affected physical health of people all over the world with deaths and illness from extreme heat, diseases emerging in new areas, an increase in cholera and increased exposure to smoke from wildfires. Another vital issue is the mental health of the people with people suffering eco-anxiety and trauma from flooded homes and loss of livelihoods. The report has warned that in the coming decades, there will be a significant increase in ill health and early death, dengue fever will spread and there will increases in anxiety and stress, particularly in children and young people. The report has pointed out that ameliorative systems put in place in this respect are reaching or approaching tipping points such as the melting of permafrost in the Arctic and the Antarctic ice sheet, while if the globe hit 2C of warming, the impacts on the Amazon from heat alongside land use change will lead to irreversible loss of its wildlife and natural systems.
Yet another difficulty is that unavoidable sea level rise will damage coastal habitats, turn groundwater salty and cause flooding and damage to infrastructure that will hit livelihoods, towns, health, food and water security, with 896 million people living in low lying coastal areas now – rising to one billion by 2050. Climate extremes are increasingly driving migration and displacement in all regions of the world, with small island states most affected. Around 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in situations where they are highly vulnerable to climate change. It is not an equal situation with 15 times more people dying from storms and floods in highly vulnerable areas over the last decade.
The world will see unavoidable increases in many climate hazards in the next two decades. Keeping temperature rises to close to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will substantially reduce the losses and damages caused by climate change compared to higher temperatures but does not eliminate all dangers. The world faces higher risks at lower temperature rises than was thought in the last report nearly eight years ago with very high risks from extreme weather at 2C of warming, and rapidly increasing risks for coral reefs, nature hotspots and some indigenous people beyond 1.5C. The report has also warned about geo-engineering, such as solar radiation modification which could see aerosols injected into the stratosphere to limit warming, warning it could cause a widespread range of new risks to people and ecosystems.
The most worrying aspect is that so far efforts to adapt to a warming world have mostly been fragmented, small-scale, incremental, applied to specific sectors and address short term risks but there are feasible and effective options to reduce the risk to people and nature. In this context, the proposed measures adopted adapt range from restoring wetlands and rivers, managing upstream forests and not building in flood plains for flooding, to planting trees in cities to help with urban cooling. On farms, water storage, conserving soil moisture and irrigation can benefit crops, although irrigation can cause problems, while nature-friendly farming and agro-forestry can support food production and nature.
Strategies to cope with climate change that reduce food waste or support more plant-based diets can contribute to nutrition, health, wildlife and other environmental benefits but the report warns that many natural systems are near the “hard limit” of their ability to adapt, including warm water corals and some coastal wetlands and rainforests, while society faces limits in terms of financial and technical difficulties in adapting. The report warns against mal-adaptation where the efforts to adapt to climate change can increase risks, such as hard flood defences or sea walls which could limit space for nature and push the threat of flooding elsewhere. Approximately 30% to 50% of the world’s land, freshwater and ocean areas need to be conserved, including current near-natural areas, to maintain the resilience of nature, which is key to helping store carbon and adapt to rising temperatures.
It is pointed out in the report that more financial resources and political commitment is needed to deliver action to help people adapt, and close the gap between the resilience of the most and least at-risk communities. Noting that nearly half the world’s population was already vulnerable to increasingly dangerous climate impacts, the report calls for drastic action on a huge scale as a third to a half of the planet needs to be conserved and protected to ensure future food and freshwater supplies. Coastal cities need plans to keep people safe from storms and rising seas. Limiting global warming to close to 1.5C may not prevent losses to nature, societies or economies but will substantially reduce them. Having already warmed 1.1C, the planet is expected to hit the 1.5C threshold within two decades. Societies will fail to adjust well to a warming world if they are not socially inclusive in tackling the task. Solutions need to consider social justice and include indigenous populations, minorities and the poor. TW
Hoor Asrar Rauf has remained a national swimming champion and recently Graduated from UCF-USA in Hospitality and Event Management