Whenever a new scientific report on the climate crisis is published, I want to bury my head in the sand. So when the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report dropped like an unwanted mixtape on the 28th of February, I was hesitant to open it. The report focuses on the impacts of climate change, as well how vulnerable and equipped to adapt the world is, you see. And who wants to read more confirmation of the fact that we are well and truly doomed?
But after hours of looking over the report, I felt oddly calm. Although the IPCC report does tend to confirm some of our biggest fears, it’s also up to date with the latest knowledge needed to tackle the climate crisis. The window to save the world is small, but we have the research to help us do it. All that’s required now is, er, action. No biggie, eh?
There were many shocking findings in the new IPCC report, but here were some of there biggest takeaways:
The climate crisis is affecting nearly half of the world’s population
The report has found that “approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change”, meaning that a good half of the world’s population already feels the effects of the climate crisis and suffers from water shortages.
“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC, said. “It emphasises the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.” You can say that again.
People are experiencing the climate crisis drastically differently around the world depending on how marginalised they are
Various parts of the world experience the climate crisis differently and, in fact, those who are most responsible for emissions are also the most shielded from it. The report highlights that “vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions”, and that this is “driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalisation, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity, such as colonialism and governance.” This only confirms what many in the Global South have been saying for years.
Crop failures are increasing and we’re at the risk of collapsing food systems
The frequency of floods and extreme heat affects plants and how they grow. Not only is this terrible for the environment, but this also means that we’re seeing more and more crop failures, which puts us at risk of collapsing food systems. Notice how food in supermarkets seems to be getting more and more expensive? Some of that is already due to extreme weather. Just imagine how expensive it will get as the world gets even hotter…
“Above 1.5°C global warming increasing concurrent climate extremes will increase risk of simultaneous crop losses,” the report states. What will happen then? “These interacting impacts will increase food prices, reduce household incomes, and lead to health risks of malnutrition and climate-related mortality with no or low levels of adaptation, especially in tropical regions.”
Even temporarily warming above 1.5 degrees is not an option
Some have suggested in the past that global heating could go over 1.5 degrees celsius and then come right back down, but the report strongly advises against that. “In any overshoot, there’s an increased risk of hitting tipping points and triggering feedback in the climate system, like permafrost thawing,” Linda Schneider from the Heinrich Boll Institute, an observer at the IPCC discussions, told the BBC. “That would make it a lot more difficult, it could make it impossible to get back below 1.5C.”
We need to conserve up to 50 per cent of the planet
Stopping greenhouse gas emissions is of course crucial, but equally important is the conservation of global biodiversity and the role it plays in absolutely everything. The IPCC report says we have to conserve “approximately 30 to 50 per cent of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean areas, including currently near-natural ecosystems.”
Climate change is affecting our mental and physical health
There is more and more evidence that the climate crisis is not only affecting our physical health, but also our mental health.
How does it impact our physical health? Well, diseases will become more likely to spread in the coming decades and increased exposure to pollution will bring on climate-sensitive cardiovascular and respiratory distress. Also, extreme weather events will probably disrupt hospitals and other health services.
The report also found that “in assessed regions, some mental health challenges are associated with increasing temperatures, trauma from extreme weather and climate events, and loss of livelihoods and culture.” Signs of anxiety and stress in children, adolescents, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are also expected to increase under further global heating. It’s time for the planet to chill out a bit – figuratively and literally.