Climate change is likely going to make the world sicker, hungrier, poorer and way more dangerous by 2040 with an “unavoidable” increase in risks, a new United Nations science report has said, warning that there remained only “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) study on Monday said if human-caused global warming was not limited to just another couple tenths of a degree, an Earth now struck regularly by deadly heat, fires, floods and drought in future decades will degrade in 127 ways – with some being “potentially irreversible”.
Delaying cuts in heat-trapping carbon emissions and waiting on adapting to warming’s impacts, it warns, “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.
Children today who may still be alive in the year 2100 are going to experience four times more climate extremes than they do now even with only a few more tenths of a degree of warming over today’s heat. But if temperatures increase nearly two more degrees Celsius from now (3.4 degrees Fahrenheit), they would feel five times the floods, storms, drought and heatwaves, according to the collection of scientists at the IPCC.
Already, at least 3.3 billion people’s daily lives “are highly vulnerable to climate change” and 15 times more likely to die from extreme weather, the report said.
Large numbers of people are being displaced by worsening weather extremes. And the world’s poor are being hit by far the hardest, it said. More people are going to die each year from heatwaves, diseases, extreme weather, air pollution and starvation because of global warming, the report added.
How many people die depends on how much heat-trapping gas from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas gets spewed into the air and how the world adapts to an ever-hotter world, the scientists said.
“Climate change is killing people,” said co-author Helen Adams of King’s College London. “Yes, things are bad, but actually the future depends on us, not the climate.”
By 2050, a billion people will face coastal flooding risk from rising seas, the report said. More people will be forced out of their homes from weather disasters, especially flooding, sea level rise and tropical cyclones.
If warming exceeds a few more tenths of a degree, it could lead to some areas becoming uninhabitable, including some small islands, said report co-author Adelle Thomas of the University of Bahamas and Climate Analytics.
And eventually in some places it will become too hot for people to work outdoors, which will be a problem for raising crops, said report co-author Rachel Bezner Kerr of Cornell University.
Following the release of the report, UN chief Antonio Guterres blasted world powers for a “criminal” abdication of leadership.
“Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone – now. Many ecosystems are at the point of no return – now,” said Guterres.
“This abdication of leadership is criminal. The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.”