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World unprepared for upcoming impacts of climate change, IPCC warns

quinta-feira, março 03, 2022


Elton Alisson | FAPESP Agency – Awareness of climate risks and actions to reduce them have increased globally. The implementation of adaptation measures, however, is still insufficient in view of the magnitude of the impacts of climate change that have already been observed in all habitable regions of the planet and which may worsen in a global warming scenario above 1.5 ºC of pre-industrial levels.

The evaluation is from an international group of scientists who are the authors of the new report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability – WGII/AR6 – released on Monday (28/02).

Among the authors are five Brazilian scientists, four of whom participated in the preparation of the Summary for Decision Makers (SPM) published in conjunction with the report.

"There are a number of measures that have been adopted in recent years in different regions of the world with the aim of reducing climate risks, but which are more associated with mitigation, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Jean Ometto, a researcher at the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) and lead author of chapter 12 and the special chapter on tropical forests in the report, tells FAPESP.

"Adaptation measures, however, have been very timely and localized," says Ometto, who is also a member of the fapesp global climate change research program.

In the evaluation of the authors of the publication, national and local governments, as well as businesses and civil society, have recognized the growing need for adaptation to climate change. At least 170 countries – including Brazil – and many cities, such as São Paulo, have included adaptation to their climate-related policies and planning processes.

Progress on this subject, however, has been uneven and there are large gaps between the adaptation measures taken and those needed in many regions of the world, especially in lower-income countries. These gaps are caused by lack of funding, political commitment, reliable information and a sense of urgency. This has made people and ecosystems more vulnerable to be affected by the impacts of climate change, scientists stress.

"Adaptation has to be an objective and effective action. And for that to happen, we must first recognize that the impacts of climate change are already occurring," says Ometto.

There are also large gaps in understanding adaptation to climate change, such as which actions have the potential to reduce climate risk and whether they can have unintended consequences or side effects, causing more harm than benefits – so-called poor adaptation. Among these actions is the construction of sea walls, which can protect in the short term coastal areas from the advance of the sea, but can destroy during the works entire ecosystems, such as coral reefs.

"Poor adaptation can be avoided by planning and implementing flexible, multisectoral, inclusive and long-term adaptation actions, with benefits for many sectors and systems," the scientists point out.

Limits to adaptation

The report's authors also point out that adaptation is essential to reduce harm, but to be effective, it must be accompanied by ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as, with increased warming, the effectiveness of many adaptation options decreases or may become unfeasible.

"There are some regions in the world that are already experiencing a situation of no return, presenting a room for manoeuvre for very low adaptation," says Ometto.

Poverty and inequality, which are sensitive issues to countries such as Brazil, also impose significant limits of adaptation, resulting in inevitable impacts for women, young people, the elderly, ethnic and religious minorities, as well as indigenous peoples and refugees, the scientists point out.

"Inequality, not only socioeconomic, but also access to basic services such as water and sanitation, increases the vulnerability of social centers. Societies with high levels of inequality are less resilient to climate change," says Ometto.

According to figures presented in the report, almost half of the global population – between 3.3 and 3.6 billion people – now lives in countries with high human vulnerability to climate change.

Global concentrations of high vulnerability are emerging in cross-border areas spanning more than one country as a result of interconnected issues relating to health, poverty, migration, conflict and inequality.

Since 2008, more than 20 million people worldwide have been displaced annually by extreme weather conditions related to weather events, with storms and floods being the most common causes.

"The decrease in water availability and agricultural farming capacity in some regions has already induced migratory movements in some regions of the world," Ometto said.

Globally, exposure to climate impacts such as heatwaves, extreme rainfall and storms in combination with rapid urbanization and lack of planning are increasing the vulnerability of marginalized urban populations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to increase the adverse consequences of climate change, as financial impacts have led to a reversal in priorities and restricted vulnerability reduction, the report states.

Webinar on the report

Next Thursday (03/03) FAPESP will hold a webinar that will bring together the Brazilian authors of the report to analyze the main results and perspectives that the new document opens for the debate on climate change on the planet and in Brazil.

Registration can be made through the event website.

The full report and summary for policy makers can be accessed at: www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/.

Source: Agência FAPESP

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