A lot to process in the last two weeks. We’ll get to the Russia/Ukraine situation in a minute, but meanwhile, we do have to grapple with the latest IPCC report, released February 28. The title is “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.” And that’s why you may have seen some freaking-out news headlines: this one is about human suffering.
The bottom line: 1. yes, climate impacts are already bad, and can get much, much worse. 2. yes, this is caused by burning fossil fuels. 3. yes, humans are suffering and will suffer much more. 4. yes, we can still mitigate the worst effects, but we have to act BIG and act NOW.
It’s important to understand that the report released on February 28 is part 2 of three working group reports developed as part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment. These Assessment cycles are multi-year, multi-pronged projects involving, of course, international cadres of hundreds of authors representing thousands of scientists. This is as peer-reviewed, collaborative, and reliable as scientific knowledge gets.
The latest report doesn’t add new information about the science of climate change so much as account for the very real and specific current and future impacts on humans. It’s really an environmental justice document
, because it confirms that the most vulnerable people will continue to suffer worst and first from the impacts of climate change. (Here’s a summary of the report in the New York Times
The report concludes with an emphatic sense of urgency:
“SPM.D.5.3 The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. (very high confidence)”
The report is grim, but it does not conclude that we’re doomed and all is hopeless. Instead it pleads for immediate and ambitious “climate resilient development.” The next IPCC report, due out later this year, will focus on what this means in much more detail.