Panel's report warns of climate change future effects


Climate change is affecting every continent and we are not prepared.

That is essentially the one-sentence summary of a report released today by a working group of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is the authoritative voice on climate change.

“We live in an era of man-made climate change,” Vicente Barros,co-chair of an IPCC working group, said in a press release. "In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future.”

I haven't read the full report, which is very detailed and very long, but there's a distinction to be made between it and the report a different IPCC working group issued in September.  That report made headlines because it stated directly that greenhouse gases from human activities are driving climate change. And it was accompanied by a stark admonition that sharp cuts in emissions are needed globally to, at the least, avoid the worst effects of climate change.

But much of the world has gotten very good at ignoring those warnings or responding with half-hearted efforts.

Today's report is a companion piece to the September publication, and it doesn't deal with invisible gases and temperature curves. It documents real things that are happening now, and projects how a changing climate will impact us, as a planet.

The report talks about harsher droughts in some places, heavier rains in others, impacts to agriculture that will harm poor countries the most, and damage to coral reefs. In a section on North America, the report says "over the past decades, economic damage from severe weather has increased dramatically." (The New York Times has a good overview of the report available here, and the Guardian has one here.)

Today's report will make people uncomfortable, and it should. But it should also encourage communities and government leaders to take a hard look at how prepared they are for the projected impacts of climate change. New York State actually has a few programs in place to encourage that sort of planning.