The recently unveiled UN climate impact report has sent out a stark reminder to the global community, detailing the most convincing evidence to date on climate change. The 2000 page report written by more than 70 scientists concluded that an increase in global emissions could lead to sudden and irreversible changes to the structure and functions of earth’s terrestrial and freshwater eco-systems which could in turn further accelerate the greenhouse gas effect. The impacts of global warming are already evident in many parts of the world; melting glaciers and permafrost, bleaching coral reefs, and an increase in severe weather events to name but a few.
Perhaps even more concerning was the report’s outlook on the long-term threats of climate change to food security, water availability, economic prosperity and human wellbeing. The IPCC stated that; ‘the risk of conflict, hunger, floods and mass displacement increase with every upward creep of the mercury’. Indeed, it is clear that the poorest countries lacking infrastructure and financial capacity will be most severely affected by the impacts of climate change.
In many ways, the rapid onset of climate change has exposed the deeper rooted problems associated with economic growth and the absence of development policies that adequately account for the value of eco-systems. Furthermore the causes and effects of climate change are directly linked to inequality and poverty. In light of this, we should see the management of climate change, not as a financial burden or necessity but rather as an approach to build a more resilient and secure world for current and future generations.
One of the key messages of the UN report is that there is indeed time to curb the worst of the impacts; however a global effort involving more rigorous mitigation and adaption strategies that encompass, technological, institutional, economic and behavioural change will be required. In the long term, a fundamental shift in the way we measure prosperity and growth may well be needed to mitigate the underlying causes of climate change but it is also evident that we need to make better use of the tools and technologies at our disposal if we are to halt the rise of global emissions.