Monday, March 20, 2023

World is on the brink of a climate calamity, U.N. panel says

Cattle and a wind farm in Carbon County, Wyoming, which no longer
produces coal
, in 2021 (Photo by Katherine Frey, The Washington Post)
"Human activities have transformed the planet at a pace and scale unmatched in recorded history, causing irreversible damage to communities and ecosystems, according to one of the most definitive reports ever published about climate change," reports Sarah Kaplan of The Washington Post. "Leading scientists warned that the world’s plans to combat these changes are inadequate and that more aggressive actions must be taken to avert catastrophic warming."

The warning comes in a report issued Monday by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which "found the world is likely to miss its most ambitious climate target — limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures — within a decade," Kaplan rpeorts. "Beyond that threshold, scientists have found, climate disasters will become so extreme people cannot adapt. Heat waves, famines and infectious diseases will claim millions of additional lives. Basic components of the Earth system will be fundamentally, irrevocably altered."

Citing the report, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said the U.S. and other highly developed countries must eliminate carbon emissions by 2040, a decade earlier than the rest of the world. He called the report a “how-to guide to defuse the climate time-bomb,” and said “The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.”

Climate change has "caused irrevocable damage to communities and ecosystems," Kaplan writes. "Fish populations are dwindling, farms are less productive, infectious diseases have multiplied, and weather disasters are escalating to unheard of extremes. The risks from this relatively low level of warming are turning out to be greater than scientists anticipated — not because of any flaw in their research, but because human-built infrastructure, social networks and economic systems have proved exceptionally vulnerable to even small amounts of climate change, the report said."

Kaplan reports, "The researchers say it’s all but inevitable that the world will surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the early 2030s — pushing the planet past a threshold at which scientists say climate change will become increasingly unmanageable. . . . Beyond 1.5 degrees of warming, the report says, humanity will run up against 'hard limits' to adaptation. Temperatures will get too high to grow many staple crops. Droughts will become so severe that even the strongest water conservation measures can’t compensate. In a world that has warmed roughly 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) — where humanity is currently headed — the harsh physical realities of climate change will be deadly for countless plants, animals and people."

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