Sustainability Blog

Time Offers Many Opportunities

By Apurva Gosalia - Mar 09, 2022

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its second working group study, known as WGII, as part of its Sixth Assessment Report – a series of reports which assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information regarding climate change. 

The first study, WGI, published in August 2021, assessed the physical science basis for climate change, which I had referred to in my blog post that same month. The third study, WGIII, on the mitigation of climate change, is planned for release later in 2022.

Last week’s release of WGII, titled “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability”, presents information on the impacts of climate change on nature and human activity. It discusses the loss of biodiversity, migration, risks to urban and rural activities, human health, food security, water scarcity and energy. 

The study found that these impacts are at the high end of previous estimates, with all parts of the world being affected. At least 3.3 billion people, about 40% of the world population, now fall into the most serious category of “highly vulnerable,” with the worst effects in the developing world. 

The report emphasises the loss and damage caused by climate change that rich countries have previously resisted taking responsibility for. Droughts, floods and heatwaves are becoming more frequent, and a mass extinction is already underway. 

WGII identified 127 negative impacts of climate change, some of them irreversible, and highlighted the need for conservation in order to maintain biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change. 

“Recent analyses, drawing on a range of lines of evidence, suggest that maintaining the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services at a global scale depends on effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30% to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean areas, including currently near-natural ecosystems,” the report said. 

“Nature can be our saviour … but only if we save it first,” commented Inger Andersen, under-secretary-general of the UN and executive director of the United Nations Environment Program.

The study also describes how climate change, together with other factors, increases the risk for emergence of infectious diseases, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Although published during the first week of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian delegation still called for news reporting on the war not to overshadow the WGII report.

Although the study’s outlook is bleak, its conclusion argues that there is still time to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by drastic cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, but such action must be taken immediately. 

The IPCC says this opportunity for action will only last for the rest of this decade. “Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future,” ends the WGII report.

This conclusion reminded me of another important release on the same day – the new second season of the U.S. scifi series Star Trek: Picard

While giving a speech to a new class of cadets in his role as chancellor of Starfleet Academy in the first episode, Picard says, “What we do in crisis often weighs upon us less heavily than what we wish we had done. Time offers many opportunities but it rarely offers second chances.”

Could there be any better summary to the conclusions of the latest study by the IPCC?


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