Time is running out on the battle against climate change, at least that's what the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates. The comprehensive 3,675-page report states that the impact of climate change will continue to cause highly volatile and dangerous weather events, with 40% of the world's population being "highly vulnerable" to these changes.
Things aren't looking good for the planet. Coral reefs are being bleached and wiped out due to increasing temperatures. If temperatures rise to between 1.7 and 1.8C above the 1850s level, half the human population could be exposed to bouts of life-threatening climate conditions.
The IPCC warns of a grim future and that any delay in global action to reduce climate change's impact "will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all."
While things are looking dire, hope isn't completely lost. As humanity is being pushed to the brink, the authors believe that there is still a brief window to act to avoid the worst.
"One of the things that I think is really, really clear in the report is that yes, things are bad, but actually, the future depends on us, not the climate," stated Dr. Helen Adams, a lead author on the report from King's College, London.
World leaders and decision-makers need to act quickly and implement direct action towards
helping disadvantaged communities and countries.
The study states that the climate crisis will impact everyone but not equally. To put it plainly, nations and regions least responsible for climate change suffer the greatest. Low-income countries that generate only a tiny fraction of global emissions yet are often most at risk.
Countries like Africa who have only generated less than 3 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are at risk of an 118-fold increase in exposure to dangerously extreme heat if the world warms by just 4 degrees celsius.
In vulnerable regions within Africa, South Asia, and Central and South America, people died from floods, droughts, and storms 15 times more than in other parts of the world.
Another critical finding form the report is that many of the world's resources are dedicated towards climate mitigation and not adaptation. Scientists warn that our current adaptation strategies have reduced climate change in the short term but aren't adequate long-term solutions.
"We have seen that the vast majority of climate finance goes towards mitigation rather than adaptation," said Adelle Thomas, an author on the report and a climate scientist at the University of the Bahamas. "So although adaptation is taking place, there is not enough funding, and it is not a high priority, which are then leading to these limits."
Many regions in the developing world are unequipped to adapt due to a lack of resources. However, the IPCC points towards North America as a region where misinformation and politicization run rampant, creating significant hurdles towards proper climate action.
These roadblocks often lead to harmful misunderstandings and polarize direct action towards the crisis. As the window to adequately address climate change closes, these attitudes are "delaying urgent adaptation planning and implementation," the report's authors say.
Though North America isn't disproportionately affected, the effects of the climate crisis remain prevalent throughout the continent. A water crisis has already begun in the Western United States, causing multi-year droughts that have drained reservoirs and triggered water cuts.
Water shortages put pressure on food production and add stress to the world's food-security issues.
The report predicts that three billion people worldwide could experience "chronic water scarcity" by mid-century if temperatures rise by 2 degrees. The number increases to four billion people if it reaches 4 degrees.
As the climate crisis continues to scourge the planet, more people will need to relocate to less impacted regions. These types of massive disruptions and impacts will continue to stress our already finite resources.
Climate change has created "substantial damages," according to the document. This has led to an increased and irreversible loss to land ecosystems across every region of the world. Animal and wildlife populations are also put at substantial risk as these effects continue to occur.
The study clearly stated that the magnitude of climate impacts in our environments is "larger than estimated in previous [IPCC] assessments."
Climate change may have contributed to the extinction or near-extinction of at least three species. An extensive study of 976 plants and animals discovered that 47% had suffered local extinctions due to climate-induced changes.
If humanity doesn't change course soon, scientists warn that we could witness a rise in disease and other dangerous pathogens. As temperatures heat up, the range of mosquitoes is expanding which increases the risk of mosquito-borne dengue fever. The report warns that climate change could increase the diseases' spread to billions in every continent by the end of the century.
Though grim and much more hyperspecific than previous reports, the authors seem to echo sentiments previously reported. If left unchecked, the climate crisis will continue to exacerbate natural resources, deteriorate and displace disadvantaged communities, and lead to the rise of disease and illnesses across the globe. However, the authors pinpointed immediate next steps for world leaders to adopt that could help remedy global climate catastrophes.
The authors urged policymakers to emphasize "climate resilient development," which could strengthen resilience to climate change within every society.
"If our development pathways are ones in which health systems don't improve much, education doesn't improve much, our economies aren't growing very fast, and inequality remains a big problem, "Prof Brian O'Neill, an IPCC coordinating lead author from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory told the BBC, "that's a world where a particular amount of climate change is going to have a really big impact."