A U.N.-backed panel said on Monday climate change impacts are already taking place on all continents and across the oceans, however, the world is unprepared for risks from a changing climate.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finalized a report on the impacts of climate change on human and natural systems, and possible methods of adaptation during the five-day conference last week in the Japanese city of Yokohama.
“Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability,” the report said.
“We live in an era of man-made climate change,” Vicente Barros, co-chair of the working group in charge of drawing up the latest report, said in a statement.
Climate change is a growing threat to human security as it causes damage to homes and property, disrupts access to food and water and leads to forced migration, according to the IPCC, which is composed of hundreds of scientists and government representatives.
However, “in many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face,” Mr. Barros said.
“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, told a news conference on Monday.
Risks from climate change are “high to very high” if temperatures increase over 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, where the world is now heading, the report said.
If temperatures rise between 1 to 2 degrees Celsius, risks increase “disproportionately,” it said.
The report issued on Monday assesses the impacts of climate change, adaptation and vulnerability of human and natural systems. It is the second of three assessment reports by the IPCC.
“One thing that we have come up with is the importance of adaptation and mitigation choices because this is the only way we might be able to reduce risks of climate change,” Mr. Pachauri said.
Adaptation to reduce such risks is starting to take place, but, with a stronger focus on reacting to past events than on preparing for a changing future, said Chris Field, co-chair of the working group.
“Governments, firms and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation,” Mr. Field said. “This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continue to change.” “We’re walking a tightrope, but if we act boldly and cut climate pollution faster major threats to human security can still be avoided and vital ocean systems, forests and species protected,” said Kaisa Kosonen, a Greenpeace International official.
“The report makes it clear that we still have time to act,” said Samantha Smith from the World Wide Fund for Nature campaign group.
“We can limit climate instability and adapt to some of the changes we see now. But without immediate and specific action, we are in danger of going far beyond the limits of adaptation,” she said.
In September, the IPCC warned that humans were primarily responsible for global warming, which has led to a faster-than-predicted rise in sea levels, rapidly melting glaciers and ice sheets.
A third report, which will focus on mitigation of climate change, is due for release in April in Berlin.
A summit in Paris in 2015 will focus on the creation of new international climate treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which came to an end in 2012.