IPCC Report: Human-induced climate change causing widespread losses

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 March 2022:

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability warns that human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks.

Africa Renewal spoke to Dr. Christopher Trisos, a Coordinating Lead Author for the report, on the key findings of the assessment. “We must take action now and adapt,” says scientist Christopher Trisos

Here are the excerpts: 

Question: The Chair of the IPCC Dr. Hoesung Lee called the Sixth Assessment Cycle, which this report is part of, as “the most ambitious one in IPCC history,” simply because “the stakes have never been higher.” What are some of the key take-aways? 

Dr. Trisos: Human-induced climate change is causing widespread losses and damages to people and the ecosystems – with hat happening in regions all around the world. And that evidence is much stronger since the last report-setting.

This report really emphasizes that it’s not just about cutting the emissions – that’s such an important foundation, the emissions cuts – what we’re emphasizing in this report is we also have to adapt and have to do better.

From what the science says any further delays in global action risk missing (a) rapidly closing window to secure a safe and livable future for people and nature on the planet.

The report is very clear that we’re required to take action and not just make ambitious statements on things like adaptation, finance, inclusive governance for adaptation, protecting ecosystems, [and] securing livelihoods for the most vulnerable.

From what the science says, any further delays in global action risk missing [a] rapidly closing window to secure a safe and livable future for people and nature on the planet.

(Learn more about the report’s main messages here.)

Climate change is widespread and affects the lives of billions of people around the world. Are we all vulnerable to climate change? 

Dr. Trisos: With increasing global warming, all regions of the world are being adversely affected by climate extremes. And we know from the Working Group I Assessment that those climate extremes are forecast to increase in the near term.

Climate risks cascade across sectors and across regions. As we have more comparative extreme events, and as the global economy is more connected, climate impacts that hit in one place can cascade through transport and supply chains, for example, to affect very distant parts of the world.

You’re not immune from climate risks at all.

I would say to someone who might not think of themselves as sitting in a vulnerable place, I would say vulnerability is relative. So it’s not like you’re low vulnerability. You are less vulnerable, perhaps, than someone sitting in a tropical developing region, but that’s not low, that’s just less vulnerable. You’re not immune from climate risks at all.

(Refer to the report’s Global to Regional Atlas here to look at impact and risks around the world.)

Climate events such as heatwaves, droughts and floods are already exceeding tolerance thresholds, warns the report. How is this affecting people’s ability to adapt?

Dr. Trisos: In many ecosystems especially, limits to adaptation have begun to be reached. So despite adaptation efforts occurring, we have still seen losses and damages.

Above 1.5°C [of warming] even more adaptation limits will be reached for more ecosystems and more places on the planet, and that is very, very deeply concerning.

(Learn more about impact and risks to human settlements here.)

The report says that progress on adaptation is uneven. There are increasing gaps between present risks and financing for adaptation. How wide is this gap, particularly in African countries? 

Dr. Trisos: A challenge that this report identifies is increasing private sector financing for adaptation. The report identifies that the overwhelming majority of finance adaptation has come from public sources. And there’s a real knowledge gap around private sector financing on adaptation, but where the tracking has been done there is not much financing for adaptation. That’s a huge area of opportunity if we are going to reduce climate change risks in the future.

In the context of Africa, we’re very confident that current finance allocated to adaptation is less than even the lowest adaptation cost estimates we assessed in this report.

(More information on Africa can be found here.)

Africa contributes 2 to 3 per cent of global emissions, but climate change threatens to expose up to 118 million of the poorest Africans to droughts, floods and extreme heat by 2030. Can you explain the findings on the impact and risks in Africa?

Dr. Trisos: Agricultural growth globally has slowed due to climate change and Africa has been the most among the most affected regions – [with a] 34% reduction in growth in agricultural production. Above 2°C [of warming], there is a rapid increase in the damages to African agriculture even with adaptation efforts.

So things like new genetic varieties from maize, the ability to adapt through irrigation beyond 2°C – there are findings of this report, with some hard confidence, that in Africa those adaptations would no longer be sufficient.

Multiple African countries are expected to face overlapping risks

Multiple African countries are expected to face overlapping risks, where they’ll have reduced food production from crops, as well as reduced fisheries production, as well as increasing heat related mortality. And heat related loss of labor productivity, and flooding from sea-level rise. This is especially the case in West Africa.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 Celsius will be expected to substantially reduce damages to African economies, and health and ecosystems.

(The full report can be found here.)

About the author

Dr. Christopher Trisos directs the Climate Risk Lab at the University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative in South Africa and is responsible for the chapter on Africa in the new report.


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