Human-Caused Climate Change Impacts Already Irreversible

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  • 1.5 C rise would lead to ‘severe’ risks
  • 3.6 billion people at risk of climate effects
  • ‘Uniquely challenging’ geopolitics: Platts Analytics

Human-caused climate change has already led to irreversible impacts on the planet, with additional severe risks to human and natural systems if the world overshoots a 1.5 C temperature rise, according to a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published Feb. 28, says an article published on sp global website. 

3.6 billion people at risk of climate effects

About 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people live in settings that are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the IPCC said.

Climate change is already causing “dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks,” it said.

The report said “the world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5 C. Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements.”

Urgent action

The IPCC called for urgent action to deal with increasing risks like heatwaves, droughts and floods, which it said were already exceeding plants’ and animals’ tolerance thresholds. Millions of people were exposed to acute food and water insecurity, particularly in Africa, Asia, Central and South America.

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said in a statement. “Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

The report “recognizes the interdependence of climate, biodiversity, and people and integrates natural, social and economic sciences more strongly” than in previous assessments, Lee said.

But the window for action is closing fast, it said.

Climate-resilient development is already challenging with current temperature rises, and would become more limited if temperatures rise 1.5 C above preindustrial levels, the IPCC said, adding that it would become impossible in some regions with rises of more than 2 C.

The IPCC said action must focus on equity and justice, with “adequate funding, technology transfer, political commitment and partnership.”

“The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future,” said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Hans-Otto Portner.

‘Uniquely challenging’ geopolitics

The report comes against a “uniquely challenging” geopolitical backdrop, said Roman Kramarchuk, S&P Global Platts Analytics’ head of Future Energy, with global tensions high after Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.

“Economic slowdown from reduced global cooperation and trade in & lsquo;resource nationalism’ world may negatively impact energy demand — but it may also increase overall emissions as some nations’ domestic energy resources, such as coal, have a higher carbon intensity than imported supply, such as natural gas,” Kramarchuk said.

“For the EU, carbon intensity may rise in the short term to meet basic energy needs,” he said, but noted the bloc would seek to accelerate a cut to its reliance on natural gas imports, particularly from Russia.

Carbon prices under the EU Emissions Trading System fell 9% to a six-week low of Eur80.12/mt ($89.69/mt) Feb. 28. Price volatility increased sharply in late February as the market weighed the impact of increased coal-burn for electricity generation against the downside risks implied by a deepening military conflict and its potential impact on Europe’s economic growth.

“The key question from an emissions perspective will be what replaces imported gas — coal or natural gas from other sources, or more renewables or nuclear?” Kramarchuk said.

Cause for hope

“Today’s report shows that the impacts of climate change are already with us and will affect us more severely than previously thought, with the most vulnerable being hardest hit,” the UN Climate Change Conference President Alok Sharma said in a joint statement with the COP27 Egyptian Presidency and the UNFCCC secretariat.

The group said there was cause for hope, despite the narrowing window for action.

“With a decisive and immediate response, bringing transformational adaptation together with rapid mitigation led by countries’ plans, we can create a climate-resilient society, with benefits for all,” they said.

Countries must collectively deliver on the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow pact through strengthened pledges with urgent implementation, they said.

“Developed countries must follow through on their commitment to at least double their climate finance for adaptation to developing countries by 2025 aiming at achieving balance between funding for adaptation and mitigation,” they said. “We must also act with urgency to put in place the technical and financial support to deal with loss and damage.”

However,Kramarchuk said the threat of increasing resource nationalism and geopolitical tensions “will hold back the potential for global trade and dissemination of low-carbon clean energy alternatives and technologies.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change, decarbonizing our economy faster than any country in the G20, and helping over 90% of the global economy set net-zero targets during our COP26 Presidency, up from 30% two years ago.”

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Source: sp global 

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