IPCC climate change report: what next?

This article aims to summarise the recent Climate Change report that was released by the UN’s IPCC, or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This will be done first by reference to the relevant global region, and near the end there is some further discussion on what comes next, and the role of this Government.

Europe

The report identified some key risks for the European region. First, there are likely to be heat-and-drought related risks to crop growing. While the rising temperatures may make agriculture more successful in Northern Europe, the higher heat and increased water scarcity will reduce output in Southern Europe, and the losses in the South are expected to be far greater than the gains in the North. If the global temperature rises by 2 degrees, water scarcity will likely impact a third of the population living in Southern Europe, or around 50,000,000 people, and if the temperature increases one degree further, more than 100,000,000 Europeans will experience water scarcity. At this temperature level – 3 degrees warmer – it is expected that coastal flood damage will increase ten-fold, and that the number of people impacted by flooding will double.

North, South, and Central America

In North America, severe storms and hurricanes are expected to increase, and as the temperature rises, already-present water scarcity is expected to become a much bigger problem. Furthermore, food supplies from North America will be affected, with fishing zones and agricultural production both likely to be severely impacted by the rising ocean and extreme weather. In Central and South America, rising temperatures have already been impacting the Amazon, with a higher tree mortality rate and reduced forest productivity. A large concern for this region is climate-based migration, which will impact hundreds of millions of people, and will be a resource problem for neighbouring countries. The high rates of poverty in this region increase the likelihood of a migration crisis, and rising temperatures in the region are likely to increase incidents of diseases such as dengue fever and zika.

Asia and Australia

In Asia, increasing temperatures will impact the water reservoirs in the region, starting with the Himalayas. Melting glaciers here and in the Hindu Kush are expected to cause widespread flooding, which will be exacerbated by an increased monsoon output. In the Middle East, the report estimates that by the end of this century, drought conditions could rise by 20%, likely affecting more than a hundred million people. Water hoarding and water scarcity is already present in this region and is expected to increase. In Australia and surrounding areas, there is an expected increase in wildfires, which is directly linked to rising temperatures and increased drought conditions. There is also a strong risk of collapse of the coral reefs, which will massively reduce marine biodiversity in the region and limit fish resources for food supplies.

Africa

Finally, in Africa, it is expected that by 2030, around 110 million people will be exposed to sea level rise, compared to 50 million 20 years ago. Furthermore, agricultural productivity growth has been reduced by 34% since 1961 due to climate change, more than any other region in the world. Income inequality will increase the number of climate-based migrants moving throughout the continent, and while Africa is the continent which has contributed least to climate change, it is likely to be one of the most heavily impacted.

Vulnerable Groups

In every region, indigenous people are expected to be more heavily impacted than others, and loss of biodiversity will severely impede their traditional ways of life. Heritage sites are broadly unprotected from flooding or extreme weather, increasing the likelihood of damage to sites like the Great Pyramids in Egypt or Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

What next?

The ICPP has a range of suggestions to mitigate the most severe of these outcomes, with options such as climate smart agriculture, agricultural and livelihood diversification, space cooling and urban planning to manage heat risks, and early warning systems for both water scarcity and floods. However, a 2019 Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) report showed that the UK was underspending on climate initiatives. Moreover, the developed world failed to contribute 100 billion dollars in climate change mitigation funds by 2020, making the needed increase more unlikely, especially in the wake of universal increased spending on Covid-19 relief.

Call to action

Preventing mass migration crises and climate-related disasters needs to be a priority of the developed world, and the current Government must increase their spending on green infrastructure and international green development. In 2021, the British International Investment group, which is responsible for funding international investment projects, restructured, and many critics are now arguing that the new fund “focuses solely on private-sector investment and profit-making, rather than development goals and poverty reduction.”

If the government is serious about their commitments to reducing emissions and increasing climate resilience, a focus must be placed on working more closely with international partners and developing a more ambitious strategy to prevent climate disaster.

* Jennifer Schwartz is a parliamentary assistant and in Lord Roger Roberts' team Humanitarians Together

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14 Comments

  • Jenny Barnes 8th Apr '22 - 10:49am

    “If the government is serious ”
    ha ha
    Oh my aching sides

  • Brad Barrows 8th Apr '22 - 11:23am

    @Jenny Barnes
    I think it is clear that governments wishing to be re-elected will never fully commit to the measures needed to cut emissions if doing so would lead to political costs at the ballot box. Therefore, during a cost of living crisis when many voters are more concerned about their ability to make ends meet than global warming, governments will back off on adding additional costs to using fossil fuels or production that causes carbon emissions. We have already seen this with the freeze on fuel duty. Going forward, I expect more of the same – governments will follow public opinion, and priorities, on measures to fight climate change and it will drop down the list of priorities if that reflects the priorities of voters.

  • The report identified some key risks for the European region. First, there are likely to be heat-and-drought related risks to crop growing.

    Meanwhile in the real world, France has just suffered its coldest start to April in recorded history…

    ‘France experiences coldest April night since 1947’ [4th. April 2022]:
    https://www.thelocal.fr/20220404/france-experiences-coldest-april-night-since-1947/

    While Champagne went down to -9C parts of the south west also recorded temperatures of -5C, leaving wine producers very worried about frost damage to their vines.

    ‘Antarctica Plunges To -70.6C (-95.1F), Ice Takes A Sharp Upturn; + Europe Continues To Freeze: France Logged 80 New *Monthly* Low Temp Records Yesterday As Nation Suffered Coldest-Ever April Night’ [5th. April 2022]:
    https://electroverse.net/antarctica-plunges-ice-takes-a-sharp-upturn-as-europe-continues-to-freeze/

  • Jenny Barnes 8th Apr '22 - 2:03pm

    @ brad
    I can see little political downside in funding a massive house insulation programme. Ofc, the money would go to the “little people” not the cronygarchs.

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Apr '22 - 2:44pm

    The key feature missing from the plan is insulating our poorly insulated houses (and enforcing the regulations properly).

    @Jeff – on climate extremes – scientists have been predicting for years more extreme weather events. Wildfires were very bad in parts of France last year.

  • Jenny Barnes 8th Apr ’22 – 2:03pm:
    I can see little political downside in funding a massive house insulation programme.

    That may depend on how well informed the electorate are…

    ‘Do Energy Efficiency Investments Deliver? Evidence from the Weatherization Assistance Program’ [January 2018]:
    https://academic.oup.com/qje/article-abstract/133/3/1597/4828342

    This article reports on the results of an experimental evaluation of the nation’s largest residential energy efficiency program — the Weatherization Assistance Program — conducted on a sample of approximately 30,000 households in Michigan. The findings suggest that the upfront investment costs are about twice the actual energy savings. Furthermore, the model-projected savings are more than three times the actual savings. […] Even when accounting for the broader societal benefits derived from emissions reductions, the costs still substantially outweigh the benefits; the average rate of return is approximately -7.8% annually.

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Apr '22 - 4:37pm

    @Jeff
    ‘Upfront investment costs’ – but what insulation methods were investigated? What measurements were undertaken?

    Also Michigan, in the middle of a big continental land mass, generally has a more extreme climate than does the British Isles, surrounded as they are with seawater and warmed by the Gulf Stream. Michigan may not be very comparable with the British Isles.

  • Jenny Barnes 8th Apr '22 - 4:51pm

    “The findings suggest that the upfront investment costs are about twice the actual energy savings.”
    Clearly some insulation interventions aren’t financially beneficial. I suspect that trying to insulate single skin brick houses with external cladding isn’t, double glazing is quite expensive for what it does – although there are other benefits. But loft insulation and cavity wall insulation are well known to be worth while; so is draught proofing.
    And this government could easily have passed building regulations to improve the insulation standards of new builds 10 years ago…

  • Peter Chambers 8th Apr '22 - 6:07pm

    @Jenny Barnes
    You are correct about single skin brick houses. Even double skin brick can be poor. When I moved into my present house I immediately had cavity wall insulation installed. This was so long ago that there was a 50% grant for this. After fitting some loft installation – to the old thinner standard – the gas bill went down significantly. With the money I saved, the next year I fitted thermostatic valves, which saved even more. People like Transition Towns helped by bulk buying.
    Over the same period UK electric demand dropped from about 40 GW during the day to about 34 GW. Several power stations were decommissioned and not replaced.
    Then along came a nice chap called Ed Davey with the FITS scheme. Even more savings. More power stations decommissioned. You can see videos online of the cooling towers being demolished. By contract, have you seen the lead time for a new nuclear station? And the price guarantees that have to be offered to foreign firms to make them?
    This is the so-called ‘strike price’ of option theory, and say it is twice what it should be.
    The British customer is supporting the profits of foreign firms. Give away control ?

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Apr '22 - 6:11pm

    Loft insulation – just looking on Wickes website – shows several types of insulation which could be laid DIY (gloves & facemask appropriate) and cost less than £5 per square metre.

  • @Jeff – You probably should have done a little more digging:

    “The study released this week … is seriously flawed and does not present a balanced assessment of the benefits of investing in energy efficiency in either its final or working draft form.”

    However, you are right, many, such who will simply read the clickbait and use this to reinforce their head-in-the-sand opinion.

  • David Garlick 9th Apr '22 - 9:40am

    Thank you for this summary. Good to put some detail on a very sad situation for the planet. Sad also that there is no sign of any significant action from the UK Gov’t.

    Need a strong and persistent effort from us Lib dems to raise the alarm.

  • John Roffey 9th Apr '22 - 1:39pm

    As a relatively new member of the Party, I am surprised to see this article has not been written by Wera Hobhouse who, according to the Party’s website, is the spokesperson for Climate Emergency and Energy. Which does question whether the Party’s management genuinely believes there is a ‘Climate Emergency’.

    Wera must face some difficult decisions being responsible for such a broad range of issues [Spokesperson for Climate Emergency and Energy, Justice and Women & Equalities, Shadow Leader of the House] and whereas she does appear to have written articles on ‘Energy’ her primary concern, from a preliminary search, seems to be equality for women.

    Such a broad range does highlight some conflict and questions whether this issue has a place within the Party’s agreed policies in light of recent events. Should she, for instance, have condemned the Ukrainian leadership for insisting that all males of fighting age should stay and fight whilst the women took responsibility for ensuring that the children were safe? Surely if there is women’s equality – these roles should be shared equally between male and female citizens!

  • John Roffey 9th Apr '22 - 1:41pm

    Continued:

    The comments on the article, generally, seem to view the subject of the Climate Emergency as one to be used by the Party for maximum political gain rather than an issue that rises above all else in importance as was the IPCC’s intention [human actions are causing dangerous disruption, and window to secure a liveable future is closing].

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/feb/28/ipcc-issues-bleakest-warning-yet-impacts-climate-breakdown

    Having a limited number of MPs does put pressure on the Party’s ability to cover all issues. However, I would suggest that it is better to ignore some of these to ensure that the most important are covered thoroughly – and that the Climate Emergency ranks amongst the highest of these.

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