Tuesday, 24 May 2022

IPCC report: Climate change talks are moving at snail’s pace

5 min read

By Gordian Gaeta

In this commentary, Gordian Gaeta urges every individual to hold their political leaders responsible to end the use of fossil fuels and transition towards a green and a sustainable future. The latest IPCC report is a final warning to the governments on climate action. The report states that global temperatures will rise to more than 3 degrees Celsius, resulting in catastrophic consequences, unless policies are urgently implemented.

  • According to the IPCC report, the global temperatures will rise to more than 3 degrees Celsius unless policies are urgently implemented.
  • The report states the global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and the countries can still halve these emissions by 2030.
  • One of the recommendations of the report includes implementing land use reforms and transform cities.


Below is the edited transcript:

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Gordian Gaeta, the chairman of the Advisory Council of Wealth and Society.

I occasionally provide critical commentary on the issues that affect both society and those who are wealthy and can make and do make an impact on society. End of February 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the final draft of its report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts Adaption and Vulnerability. It is the working group 2 contribution to the sixth assessment report of the IPCC, the inter-governmental panel.

This report is by far the most comprehensive and complete risk assessment and adaptation guide to the impact humans are facing due to climate change. However, it is impossible to read the report, the report has 3675 pages, yes 3675 pages in small font, and almost every sentence is referenced and cross-referenced, new terms are created, then reduced to acronyms and the syntax is overloaded with qualifications to make sure that every single sentence stands up against any critique or criticism.

This is a seminal publication, and its content is critical. Therefore, I thought I should give you some insights or takeaways even though they are mainly based on the summary and some cross-references, but certainly not the full report.

Now, a warning to children. If you are easily frightened, then you should not listen to that. It is a grim story. It's a bit like a good horror movie but with a possibly good outcome.

So, when many people talk about the impact of climate change, they look mainly at the impact on the land, the ocean, the water, and the biodiversity in the sense of how many species we have, and how many survived the problems are generally encapsulated in global warming.

Now the report says that today there is more than 50% likelihood that global warming will reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the Paris accord target. Anything approaching 1.5 or exceeding 1.5 will have an unavoidable increase in climate hazards and present multiple risks to the ecosystem and humans. Now, the risks include hot and extremes on land and the ocean, heavy precipitation or insufficient precipitation, drought and fire, increased human mortality, coral bleaching, tree mortality, tropical cyclones, ocean acidification, sea level rises, hydrological changes because of the retreat of the glaciers and so on. Globally, less than 15% of the land, 21% of freshwater and only 8% of the ocean can be considered protected or not directly affected. The rest is deteriorating by the day. It is unequivocal, as the report says that climate change has already disrupted human and natural systems. That is bad.

However, the extent and the magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in the previous report. Not only are they larger, but they are also accelerating.

Beyond 2040, which is not too far away, the key risks assessed medium and long term are multiple times higher than what we observe today.

To give you an idea, it took us about 100 years to warm up the earth by one degree, it took us about 40 or 50 years by another degree, it will take us less than 25 years to warm up by another degree. That is, in total three degrees and we need to contain that increase to one and a half and overall, two to two and a half. That gives you an idea of what acceleration can do. Now we have the competence and the technology to do something about that. But the window is narrowed. Climate-resilient pathways and climate protection pathways are progressively constrained by past sins. Every day when we commit the same, we have fewer options or more work to recover from that. That is frightening.

In a nutshell, the situation is bad, really bad. Things are getting worse rapidly. Our options to do something are narrowing. That's not a very pleasant picture.

What struck me the most in the report was the impact assessment on human beings. When most of us think about climate change, we think about nature, we think about species we think about oceans, and we think about weather conditions. It's more abstract, very rarely, or not that often do we think about ourselves, our food, our jobs, our livelihoods. And the report is very clear on that. To give you some idea, around three and a half billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change.

Globally, approximately 1 billion people in cities are exposed to climate change, and their cities may no longer be existing or in the same form in the next 30 years. It hits all rural and urban, and it hits the rich and the poor. The global hotspots, of course, are in developing countries. They are in West, Central, and East Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, Small Island Developing States, and the Arctic.

Therefore, the climate change impact is not equally distributed. But eventually, it will affect all of us. When we talk about human impacts, we talking about three areas, water scarcity and food production, that is water supply, agricultural production, animal husbandry, and fisheries, we talk about health and well-being including diseases, malnutrition, mental health and displacement, and IQ and cities and development, which is flooding storms and destruction of infrastructure.

Everything is deteriorating, so in a nutshell, we are going to live longer, but we will have less water and food, we will face more diseases and displacement to survive, and our cities and economic infrastructure will be increasingly damaged.

In a globally connected world, this means that we all are going to be affected. The silver lining on the horizon is that we have the competence to address these issues. We have about a decade to make significant progress and the progress is not what happened at COP26. And I have already commented on that. It is also not what generally leaders do, who will not experience any of these consequences. They are mainly concerned about being re-elected by an electorate and the voters who also will not experience the consequences of climate change. The younger ones, many of them do not understand the issues, in particular if they're not well-educated. This means that the voters think they are shielded from the worst effects, and therefore they don't apply pressure on the government to take action.

We need a fundamental rethinking. And every one of us needs to play a part in pushing global leaders, institutions and communities to take action. While our 3675-page report is mostly illegible is not something that everyone can read. We as individuals, each one of us must push the knowledge and understanding amongst our group and make people translate that pressure into actual political responsibility. It's our responsibility and either way, we're going to suffer if I'm not going to suffer, but my kids may suffer a little bit, but their kids, my grandchildren, they're going to suffer a lot. It is our responsibility to contribute to the solutions because the pain will eventually be shared by all. Thank you very much.

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