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Newest report on climate change is irrefutable. It's time for everyone to wake up.
If you were trying to find somewhere to live, would you choose a place that you knew would regularly flood during frequent and catastrophic storms? If you were a farmer and suspected your main income crop could not withstand expected extreme heat or drought, what would you do?
If you expected a tropical disease epidemic to hit your community, what options would you have? If you saw the Southeastern US forest ecosystem weaken with loss of fragile plant and animal species, would you want to stop it and if so, how?
These and other questions will have to be addressed according to the fifth assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
IPCC, begun in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme, regularly assesses the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. That’s a massive task!
Each report calls on more than 2,000 scientists around the world to contribute science-based information about climate change.
The information then undergoes several rounds of review by thousands of selected volunteer experts to make sure a full range of objective views are represented. The information is then convened into comprehensive conclusions for the final report. Once that is done, expert reviewers determine their level of confidence in the truth of the conclusions. This is certainly a most rigorous process.
Gregory Jackson, oceanographer and report contributor, has summed up climate change in haiku poetry. These exerpts are definitely more fun to read than the report:
Air warms through century past
More heavy rains fall.
We burn more carbon
Air warms for decades
But seas for millennia.
Forty years from now
Children will live in a world
Shaped by our choices.
Mind you, IPCC has no authority to make anyone or any government do anything, but if you knew how vulnerable you were with certainty, you surely would take steps to build in resilience for your family now and in the future.
So, you ask, what’s in the report? It’s huge, with lots of charts and graphs, but here are some conclusions drawn with high confidence level (meaning 90 percent surety).
1. Human interference with the climate system is occurring and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems as temperature rises.
2. Many terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances, and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change.
3. Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts.
4. Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability.
5. Climate-related hazards exacerbate other stressors, often with negative outcomes for livelihoods, especially for people living in poverty.
The report takes a global look—but you live here. Taking steps to prevent impacts or be prepared is in order wherever you live. Our area will suffer primarily from flooding, drought, and loss of related forest biodiversity.
In North America, governments are engaging in incremental adaptation assessment and planning, particularly at the municipal level. Some proactive adaptation is occurring to protect longer-term investments in energy and public infrastructure.
Chattanooga has started with green moves to mitigate flooding, hybrid shuttle buses, EPB’s energy efficiency efforts, and green buildings, but we have a long way to go.
Reading poetry may be soothing, but active steps in risk management planning and mitigation work are needed to make the future of our children a livable one.