The “window is shrinking” to limit the impact of climate change and major polluters need to “face their responsibilities”, a climate expert has warned.
Yamide Dagnet, director of Climate Justice at Open Society Foundations, told NationalWorld the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows the “most unequivocal picture of where we are at the moment” and “highlights the consequences of delayed action or inaction”.
The IPCC report, released on Monday 20 March, is a comprehensive review of the climate crisis and took hundreds of scientists eight years to compile.
Scientists appealed directly to everyone on the planet to seize a dwindling chance to limit global warming to 1.5C or risk harming people living today and their descendants.
The IPCC found temperatures are now about 1.1C above pre-industrial levels - but the world still has a chance of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the “climate time bomb is ticking” but the report “is a survival guide for humanity”.
Sarah Mekjian, communications director at the Climate Alliance, added that the report issues the most “dire warning” about climate change and sends a clear message that “we are literally sawing off the limb on which we are already so precariously perched”.
‘It’s happening now’
Stark warnings issued in the IPCC report include 3.5 billion people are highly vulnerable to climate impacts, while a billion people living on the coasts are expected to be exposed to flooding by 2050.
If global heating continues and little adaptation is put in place, 183 million more people are projected to go hungry by 2050.
The report also notes that policies in place by the end of 2021 would likely see temperatures exceed 1.5C this century - a threshold for even more disastrous impacts. Scientists expect temperatures to reach around 3.2C by 2100.
Ms Dagent said the report shows the need to “really quickly shift the way we consume and produce” and why “we need to take actions to keep 1.5C as every inch of degrees matters.”
She said a more centred approach is needed, bringing different stakeholders to the tables and not relying on the “usual CEOs.”
The IPCC scientists highlighted that many agriculture, forestry and land use options provide adaptation and mitigation benefits that could be upscaled across most regions.
She told NationalWorld that governments “need to rely a little bit more on chief ecological officers, those indigenous people on the front line.”
She added: “For so long it was all about mitigation and what this report is doing is bringing a more systemic and holistic approach. I think combining a holistic approach with more stakeholders, and how we communicate in this is going to be important.”
Ms Dagent stressed that climate impacts are “happening now, it’s not something within 10 years” and governments need to work with indigenous people who have “for decades, even centuries, done a better job at protecting our forests and planet”.
Another key takeaway from the report is how the climate crisis affects everyone - especially the poorest - and financing will be important to help those who are vulnerable.
It found that current global financing for adaptation, including from public and private finance sources, are insufficient and limit the implementation of adaptation options - especially in developing countries.
Ms Dagnet added: “The report reveals that we need to do better at building our resilience because climate impacts are accelerating. We cannot just continue to think that it is something that happens just to the poorest.
“Of course the poorest will be the most affected because of the inequality of this world and they are the one who contributed to this problem so we need to do something to support them. But this is an area that is affecting everyone’s backyard.”
‘We’re about to drive off a cliff edge’
Elsewhere, Adaptation Committee Chair Baroness Brown said the report shows that "necessary changes" to cut emissions can still be made to prevent the "worst scenarios of climate change".
She added that it put emphasis on how important “accelerated implementation of adaptation” is in the near term, but “climate adaptation continues to receive significantly less attention”.
Examples of effective adaptation in the report include soil restoration, tree planting, and man-made solutions including direct air capture (to capture carbon dioxide).
Baroness Brown said the UK focuses more on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions than on how it can adapt to the climate crisis, and there are “significant policy gaps that remain and must be addressed.”
Helen Clarkson, CEO of Climate Group, added that the report is “a final warning that we’re about to drive off a cliff edge” and the UK “needs to change course urgently.”