Latest IPCC report details escalating toll — but top scientists say the world still can choose a less catastrophic path.

Climate crisis causes rising sea levels in coastal cities of Indonesia as ice caps melt and the oceans warm and expand.
Climate crisis causes rising sea levels in coastal cities of Indonesia as ice caps melt and the oceans warm and expand. (Eko Siswono Toyudho / AA)

People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit by the climate crises, scientists have said in a ground breaking UN report. 

“Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone now," the United Nation's Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, was quoted as saying in the report published on Monday by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report was very scathing of the lacklustre efforts to date to combat climate change.

"I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this. Today's IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership and reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change," Guterres added.

Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world despite efforts to reduce the risks.

The IPCC said that the world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C and further warned that even temporarily exceeding this warming level would result in additional severe impacts, some of which would be irreversible.

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World poverty to rise

Climate change and extreme weather are already hurting the world economy and if unchecked will plunge millions more into poverty while pushing up food prices and disrupting trade and labour markets, UN IPCC climate experts warned. 

“Economic damages from climate change have been detected in climate-exposed sectors, with regional effects to agriculture, forestry, fishery, energy and tourism and through outdoor labour productivity,” the report summary said.

“Economic damages from climate change have been detected in climate-exposed sectors, with regional effects to agriculture, forestry, fishery, energy and tourism and through outdoor labour productivity,” the report summary said.

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Mitigation

While governments need to drastically curb their emissions to prevent runaway global warming, they can also work to limit suffering by adapting to the conditions of a warmer world, the UN report says. 

That will take a lot of money - to finance new technologies and institutional support. Cities can invest in cooling areas to help people through heatwaves. Coastal communities may need new infrastructure or to relocate altogether.

"In terms of transformational adaptation, we can plan it and implement it now, or it'll be thrust upon us by climate change," said Kristina Dahl, a climate expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who was not involved in writing the report.

But in some cases, the report acknowledges, the costs of adapting will be too high.

The report's release three months after global leaders met at a climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, highlighted the urgency of efforts to contain global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial temperatures.

Breaching that threshold will deliver irreversible damage to the planet, it says. And every increment of warming will cause more pain.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies