New IPCC report paints grim picture of climate realities

As political conflict at home and abroad captivates our attention and energy, the dial of the looming doomsday clock of climate change draws ever nearer to midnight.
Now, despite many new intergovernmental initiatives regarding the issue in recent years, the projections worsen substantially.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the United Nations body responsible for monitoring and advancing our understanding of climate change, released the second component of its report for the sixth assessment cycle.
Since 1988, the IPCC has used a team of experts to analyze and summarize scientific research on climate change, including thorough independent review, in order to present governments with a comprehensive understanding of the current and future drivers and impacts behind our climate, and to offer possible solutions and mitigation measures.
The IPCC functions on the basis of three working groups and a taskforce, sometimes including smaller task groups on specific emerging issues, that put together its reports on a cyclical basis. The component of the current report finalized this Monday was created by the second working group, whose focus is climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.
This report paints a grim picture of our earth’s future. According to the IPCC’s official press release: “The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F). Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements.”
The report describes how tedious the line we are towing between the continued destruction or preservation of the planet really is.
Although some of the effects may already be irreversible, the main component of actually ending the decline in our ecosystems is global warming itself.
“We are losing living spaces for species, and for ourselves as well, because with climate change, some parts of the planet will become uninhabitable,” Hans-Otto Pörtner, a German climate researcher and IPCC co-chair said in an interview with the Washington Post.
The report warns that as global warming increases beyond the current point, we will be at greater risk of “tipping points” that could lead us towards the end of our civilization. A tipping point is defined by the IPCC as a “critical threshold beyond which a system reorganizes, often abruptly and/or irreversibly”.
One of the possible tipping points in this and previous reports is the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, a region of the Antarctic continent. As the sheet is rapidly deteriorating, if it collapses, it could trigger a feedback loop that causes widespread collapse of land ice and raise sea levels significantly.
In addition to grappling with the current and coming effects of climate change, the IPCC is also trying to find ways to tackle the underlying issue that will be the continued responsibility of scientists and legislators around the world.
In an attempt to appeal to the international community, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke candidly about the reports political and social implications.
“Today’s IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” Guterres said. “With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change. Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone — now. Many ecosystems are at the point of no return — now. Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frog march to destruction – now. The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal.”
As communities across the Global South already face the devastating effects of climate change head on in the form of natural disasters, calls for support and reparations from industrialized nations have become more pronounced.
Displacement is a current and growing issue highlighted in the report, and along with it, class inequalities are projected to worsen.
Sarah Kaplan, climate and science reporter for the Washington Post spoke more about where the effects of climate change will be felt the most.
“Roughly 80 percent of those at risk of hunger in the worst-case warming scenarios will live in Asia and Africa,” Kaplan said. “People in low- and middle-income countries, especially those in rural areas, are most likely to be displaced by extreme weather … Higher temperatures are linked to increased rates of violence against women and girls. People with disabilities are less able to evacuate from escalating natural disasters. Indigenous communities will suffer disproportionately as extinctions alter sacred landscapes and deplete traditional food sources.”
Another issue is the generational disparity and responsibility that exists in fostering climate action. Through the report’s timeline, it is clear that those who are currently in positions of power regarding climate action will not see the brunt of the effects in their lifetimes.
The younger and future generations will inherit the brunt of the effects, lending to the frustrations that younger activists feel at what they perceive to be a lack of urgency from the political status quo on climate issues.
Even on the international stage, with the seriousity and validity that the newest IPCC report and previous IPCC reports have carried with them, it remains to be seen how governments and institutions will choose to dedicate themselves to adapting to our coming climate realities.