New IPCC report: always more documented, more precise and more alarming
In its most recent report, the IPCC observes that weather-related mortality is 15 times higher in vulnerable areas for the last ten years. It recommends that choices in favor of inclusive development be made without delay.
ANALYSIS – On February 28, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released yet another report related to global warming. It was eagerly awaited by experts interested in the problem of climate change.
“This report sends out a very serious warning about the consequences of inaction”, declared Hoesung Lee, president IPCC.
For the general public, it is important to specify the nature of this report and the context surrounding its publication. It is also relevant to discuss the main conclusions drawn by the IPCC and the interest of being interested in them for Canadian citizens, and to study the reception of this report and its potential impact on political decision-makers.
I am a professor of international environmental law and I participated as an observer in the COP26 on climate, organized in Glasgow in 2021.
The latest-and-accurate scientific data
The report – Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability – is a document produced by IPCC Working Group II, which is responsible for synthesizing the scientific evidence on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability in link with global warming.
Since 1988, the IPCC's mission has been to “evaluate, without bias and in a methodical, clear and objective manner, the scientific, technical and socio-economic information that we need to better understand the scientific basis of the risks associated with human-induced climate change, identify more precisely the possible consequences of this change and consider possible adaptation and mitigation strategies”. The report of Working Group II is therefore the most up-to-date summary of the effects and risks associated with global warming.
It is a monumental report of 3675 pages produced by 270 authors from 67 countries. The report is based on more than 34,000 bibliographic references and was the subject of 62,418 comments from experts and governments. It is therefore a source of information that is both highly documented, but also very credible with regard to the effects and risks associated with global warming.
The ultimate objective is therefore to provide our decision-makers (and the public) with the most up-to-date and accurate science possible. This report is also an opportunity to measure the evolution of the situation since the previous IPCC summary, published in 2014.
Essential reading of the latest IPCC report tells us that the planet's temperature has already risen by 1.09 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial levels. And the probability that we will achieve a 1.5 degree Celsius increase is more than 50%. This observation by the IPCC contrasts with the optimism displayed by certain representatives who, at the end of COP26 on the climate, affirmed that the objective of maintaining the rise in temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius was still alive. It is important to emphasize that this rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius will already have very serious consequences for our societies and the environment.
Thus, the latest IPCC report is (unsurprisingly) damning and very alarming regarding the effects and risks associated with global warming. Indeed, scientific data shows that global warming causes extreme events more intense and more frequent. In particular, we can think of the wildfires that hit British Columbia last year. Faced with these risks, human populations are not on an equal footing and are not affected in the same way.
IPCC Working Group II emphasizes in particular the vulnerability of low-income populations or even marginalized populations. The report notes that 3.3 to 3.6 billion people, i.e. half of humanity, live in a context of high vulnerability to global warming, hence the importance of setting up a greater climate justice both locally and internationally.
The IPCC report defines 127 key risks which are classified into 8 categories, including risks to terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems, risks to human health, risks to food security and risks associated with infrastructure. The trends established by the IPCC for these medium and long-term risks point to an increase. The IPCC also underlines the fact that the impacts and risks associated with global warming are increasingly complex and difficult to manage and that there is a real risk of runaway and cascading effects. In this context, Canada and North America are not spared and are already experiencing multiple effects of global warming.
We might be tempted to reassure ourselves by noting that progress has been made in the planning and implementation of adaptation measures. Unfortunately, the IPCC points out that many initiatives focus on short-term risk reduction. In doing so, we limit the implementation of transformative adaptation measures, particularly with regard to our production and consumption patterns.
In North America, the main obstacles to better adaptation are misinformation related to climate science and the fragmentation of the actions of the various competent authorities in planning, disaster management, mitigation and adaptation in the face of global warming. .
A very time-limited window of opportunity
The recent report of the IPCC does not content itself with drawing up a gloomy assessment of the situation. Indeed, nearly a third of the report deals with adaptation options and their feasibility. The IPCC discusses avenues for transition with regard to terrestrial and marine ecosystems (for example the establishment of warning systems), cities and infrastructures (for example better urban planning) and the energy sector (e.g. diversification of energy sources relying on renewables) as well as cross-cutting opportunities (e.g. strengthening health systems).
Again, the IPCC points out that the feasibility of implementing these avenues depends on each context and especially since the window of opportunity is currently very limited in time.
Insofar as this is the sixth report of this type produced by the IPCC, we can legitimately wonder whether our governments are aware of the gravity of the situation and the extent of the measures to be taken. This latest report has already sparked reactions. Environment Minister Stephen Guilbeault said the report “only reinforces the will of the government”. He also said it was time to tackle the sources of the problem, namely fossil fuels, at the heart of our economies and our way of life, and which are sources of greenhouse gases.
In this sense, the Minister of the Environment is in line with the Glasgow Pact, adopted on the occasion of COP26, which for the first time in history evoked a gradual exit from fossil fuels. Will Minister Guilbeault back his words by refusing the Baie du Nord oil project? Will the federal government take the findings of this report into account in the new climate action plan it is due to publish in a few weeks?
While the IPCC report highlights the uneven and disproportionate distribution of the effects and risks of global warming, Canada does not yet seem to take full measure of the seriousness of the situation and especially of its responsibility. Indeed, Canada has a special responsibility because of its historical contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, our current lifestyles, but also because of the technological and financial capacity to act for the adaptation .
However, as Hoesung Lee pointed out on the occasion of the publication of the new report, there is an urgent need “to take immediate and more ambitious measures to deal with climate risks. Half measures are no longer possible”.
How many more times will it have to be demonstrated and repeated?
Thomas Burelli, Professor of Law, Civil Law Section , University of Ottawa (Canada), member of the Scientific Council of the Fondation France Libertés, The University of Ottawa/University of Ottawa
This article is republished from The Conversation licensed under Creative Commons. Read the original article.