(Washington, D.C. – March 31, 2014) The just-released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that climate change is now affecting every part of the Earth, and that both mitigation and adaptation will be necessary for a sustainable future.The report is IPCC’s latest comprehensive look at climate change research. Like all IPCC reports, it is the result of hundreds of scientists around the world who volunteered their time for the project – including EDF’s own Senior Scientist Rebecca Shaw. She is a Lead Author of Chapter 16, Adaptation, Opportunities, Constraints and Limits.
“It’s not a choice between cutting emissions and building resilience anymore. We need to do both, and we need to do them fast,” said Shaw, who is also a Contributing Author for Chapter 4, Terrestrial and Inland Water Systems, and an author of the technical summary, which synthesizes the report’s 30 chapters.
The IPCC has been publishing assessment reports on climate change since 1990. This is the Working Group 2, Fifth Assessment Report. It focuses on the worldwide impacts of climate change on people, species and ecosystems, on our vulnerability to climate change, and on adaptation.
The final report was released just hours ago, after having been approved by representatives from 195 nations. (You can find the report and all related documents here.)
Here are some of the most striking findings:
- The impacts of climate change are now everywhere. They have been found on every continent and in all oceans.
- The impacts are widespread, unequivocal, consequential and growing – for both people and nature.
- Confronting climate change is now an issue of managing risks, and those risks are greater if we continue to pollute the atmosphere.
- Both adaptation (dealing with the direct effects of climate changes) and mitigation (reducing emissions to prevent further changes) are essential to climate policy.
- Climate change will increasingly negatively affect global agriculture, food prices and water supplies.
- Climate change will increase the frequency and severity of many types of extreme weather, and will cause increased risks from sea-level rise.
- Major increases in health problems are likely, including more food and water-borne diseases.
- Climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’ and poses an increasing threat to peace and security in the world. (This is the first time the IPCC has addressed the link between climate change and violence.)
The report does offer some hope as well.
“We found that individuals, communities, businesses and governments around the world are innovating adaptation actions, plans and policies,” said Shaw. “We’re also working to improve the health of our ecosystems, and healthy ecosystems can — and should — be our front line of defense against the worst climate change impacts.”
The report also identified countless opportunities for adaptation planning and implementation around the globe to address major risks to food security, water resources, human health, ecosystems, and the economy.“The good news is that we can accomplish both of these goals,” said EDF climate scientist Ilissa Ocko. “Improving energy efficiency, using cleaner energy sources, greening cities, and recycling water all build resilience while also cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”
(You can read more about our efforts to fight climate change and our work to protect ecosystems on EDF’s website.)
The next IPCC report, which will focus on ways to stop warming, is expected to be released on April 14th.