By MELISSA WELLHAM
It’s the end of the world, and we’re not doing enough.
This week, a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was leaked to Associated Press, and the conclusions drawn therein are pretty dire.
In short: the world is ending. (That’s my wording, obviously. Not the UN’s.)
The “Synthesis Report” – which summarises three previous reports from the UN – is to be released in November after a conference in Copenhagen, so it’s not the final copy and still might be revised.
But if the final report looks anything like the draft, then we all have good reason to worry.
The report unequivocally states that, “Human influence … is extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases.”
What are these “abrupt and irreversible changes” going to look like?
1. We’re headed towards ice-free summers in the Arctic.
For one thing, we’re likely to see ice-free summers in the Arctic before mid-century. It’s also possible that Greenland’s entire ice sheet will disappear over the next millennium, which will contribute up to 23 feet to the sea level.
2. Living by the beach is no longer going to be very desirable.
Speaking of the sea level, the report finds that by 2100, sea level rise will have an impact on 70 per cent of the world’s coastlines. Which is a bit scary when you consider that “half the world’s population lives within 37 miles of the sea, and three-quarters of all large cities are located on the coast”.
The UN also points out that even if we act now, we’re likely to be facing significant and damaging changes (for human life, anyway) to the world we live in. As in, even if we stop emitting CO2 as soon as possible, the current carbon released by the burning of fossil fuels will stay in the atmosphere. Thus, the world will continue to warm, and we may see “substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, [and] consequential constraints on common human activities.”
3. If we don’t do anything, there will be “severe, pervasive and irreversible” impacts.
The leaked UN report explains that, “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”