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IPCC: Climate action urgently needed to end human suffering

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released today, and the message is abundantly clear – climate action is urgently needed to keep our planet habitable. The message is also somewhat hopeful, as the experts say there are feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change that are available now.

Erin Coughlan de Perez, a lead author of one of the underlying analyses, says the IPCC report serves as a stark reminder that climate change is driving humanitarian crises and human suffering around the world. 

“The window is closing, but the report also shows that it is not too late yet. It is time for the international community to take urgent action to reduce emissions to stay below the 1.5 degrees warming limit and work with communities to adapt and prepare for climate change impacts.”

While the 1.5-degree target seemed like a major hurdle when the 2018 IPCC report was released, the challenge has become even greater over the last five years as heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions have only increased. The experts say that the pace and scale of what has been done are insufficient to tackle climate change.

Climate warming is causing brutal weather extremes such as deadly storms and heatwaves, and these extremes will become much worse with every small increase in the average global temperature. The risks of food and water insecurity are also rising alongside temperatures.

The authors emphasize that the impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed, and the most vulnerable people are often hit the hardest. They say that urgent action is needed 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. “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.”

According to the report, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C, emissions will need to be cut by almost half by 2030. The experts say that accelerated action to adapt to climate change is essential to close the gap between existing adaptation and what is needed. 

“What is interesting about this report is that we usually talk about different parts of the climate crisis separately – reducing emissions, adapting to save lives, or responding to losses and damages,” said Coughlan de Perez.

“This report acknowledges that we need to do everything at once, and it gives a roadmap for how we can achieve this. That roadmap is not a simple one, where we just make a few minor changes and keep going with the status quo. Instead, it is a call to transformation – fundamentally altering society to achieve climate-resilient development.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

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