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"Nobody on this planet" will be untouched by climate change - IPCC head

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 31 Mar 2014 11:42 GMT
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A girl is helped by her sister as she drinks water in Mellit town in North Darfur, Sudan, March 24, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - At Monday's launch of the latest report from the U.N. climate panel, its chair Rajendra Pachauri said "nobody on this planet" will be untouched by the impacts of climate change.

He said climate change will reduce water availability, cause species to migrate, harm crop yields, and bring more damaging extreme weather. Human security will likely be shaped by increased displacement and conflict, made worse by climate stresses, and some low-lying states may face a loss of their territory.

Authored by more than 300 scientists, who examined 12,000 publications, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is the scientific community’s flagship assessment of climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, drawing on a much larger body of research than the last such study in 2007.

"We have so much information, so much evidence, we can no longer plead ignorance," Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, told a news briefing in Yokohama, Japan, where governments agreed the report.

“Over the coming decades, climate change will have mostly negative impacts on cities and infrastructure, migration and security, ecosystems and species, crops and food security, public health, water supplies, and much more. We will see more ocean acidification and extreme droughts, floods and heat waves. The poor and vulnerable will be most affected,” Jarraud added in a statement.

However, there was still time to limit the risks threatened by a warmer planet, Pachauri said.

"What happens in terms of impacts of climate change in different parts of the world will be determined… on the extent to which we are prepared and able to mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases," he said. In two weeks' time, the IPCC will release another report focusing on mitigation, the third in a four-part series.

Here are reactions from humanitarian, development and green groups to Monday's release of the second report on climate impacts:

CONSEQUENCES FOR THE POOR

Mary Robinson, president of Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice: “(The IPCC report) highlights the current and future impacts of climate change on people; the impacts it describes undermine human rights, including the right to food, to health, to water, and to shelter. The report clarifies that while people all over the world are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the poor and marginalised are the most vulnerable. With this in mind, I believe that the world needs to respond with a climate justice approach to shape a global response that is rights-based in its actions to lower emissions and build resilience.”

Sven Harmeling, climate change advocacy coordinator, CARE International: "The IPCC’s latest report is a study in the sheer injustice of climate change. The world’s poorest people have done the least to cause the climate problem, yet today we have stark new scientific evidence that they are already, and will increasingly, bear the brunt of its impacts. From more extreme and intense weather-related disasters, to reduced food security, to rising sea-levels, climate change is fast becoming a scandal of epic proportions for the world’s poorest people – and it’s unfolding right before our eyes."

Rob Elsworth, climate and policy analyst at CAFOD: “The IPCC report, along with the evidence we’re seeing on the ground, shows climate change is the single biggest threat to poverty reduction that exists today. It has the potential to undermine years of hard-won gains in improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. We have the means to end poverty within our lifetimes, but not if we don’t tackle climate change by cutting our emissions and helping poor people to cope with its impacts.”

Amalie Obusan, Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner based in the Philippines: "Let’s not get distracted by limited economic models or be blinded by global GDP. What value can you put on the lives of 8,000 people left dead or missing by Typhoon Haiyan? Or what is the cost of the trauma of children being torn from their mother's arms due to storm surges? That is the true cost of climate change that should define the urgency of the action we take."

Louise Whiting, WaterAid’s senior policy analyst on water security and climate change: “We face a race against time to reach the 1 in 10 people lacking access to clean water who are the least equipped to withstand and recover from the impacts of climate change.  We cannot abandon these communities to the alarming increases in floods and droughts described by the IPCC, particularly as they have contributed very little to the global greenhouse emissions that drive climate change. The new Sustainable Development Goals offer humanity a last chance to come together to secure access to clean water, basic sanitation and hygiene before it’s too late.”

FOOD IMPACTS

Tim Gore, head of policy for food and climate change for Oxfam: “The report is in and the message is clear: the impact of climate change on food is worse than previously estimated. In their previous report in 2007, the IPCC was sanguine about how climate change is hitting harvests. This report is categorical that climate change has already meant significant declines in net global yields of staple crops like wheat and maize. Climate change will continue to hit crop harvests hard in the future, at the same time as demand for food is increasing. You don't need to be a climate scientist to know that falling crop yields and rising demand does not add up to a food-secure future on this planet. For the first time, the IPCC has also recognised that more extreme weather means we face more extreme food prices. The new story of climate impacts on food is not only about small-scale farmers in poor countries, but about how major crop exporters, global food prices and millions more people in rural and urban areas around the world are affected."

Kimiko Hirata, international director, Kiko Network: “Asia is the most vulnerable continent to climate change, but it is not just developing countries in the region which are affected. Japan is already experiencing climate change and faces severe risks if action is not taken. Japan imports about 60 percent of its food from overseas, thus climate impacts, like poor crop yields in other countries, will boost the price of food here - with inevitable negative consequences on our economy."

ADAPTATION

Walter Cotte, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), under secretary general for programme services: “This report confirms once more that we have no choice but to adapt to climate change. For the IFRC, strengthening resilience and preparedness is the first line of defense for vulnerable communities in many risk-prone countries. Enhanced actions and concrete investments in disaster risk reduction and adaptation processes are needed to help avert or reduce the worst consequences of climate change. The report also shows that if we continue to emit greenhouse gases as we are today, we are heading for much more dramatic changes in the climate system which we may not be able to adapt to, posing very serious humanitarian impacts.”

Heather McGray, director of vulnerability and adaptation, World Resources Institute: "Governments need to help communities prepare for climate disruptions happening already and ramp up efforts to reduce emissions going forward. There are great opportunities to shift to a low-carbon pathway and avoid far greater climate impacts in the future.”

Achala C. Abeysinghe, IPCC lead author and senior researcher on climate change at the International Institute for Environment and Development: “This report provides the strongest evidence to date that South Asian countries will be particularly vulnerable to climate related extremes that will result in the alteration of ecosystems, disruption of food production and water supply, damage to infrastructure and settlements, morbidity and mortality, and consequences for mental health and human wellbeing. The current level of adaptation funding will have to be increased to be orders of magnitude a lot greater than current investment levels.”

REDUCING EMISSIONS

Andrew Steer, president & CEO, World Resources Institute: “Climate change has already delivered severe economic damage and things will only get worse without more action. The report makes it clear that deep and rapid cuts in emissions can greatly reduce the costs of these impacts. Taking action now will undoubtedly be less expensive than waiting. Governments have a responsibility to protect people and businesses from climate hazards by increasing resilience. But, we also need to make significant emissions reductions to get on a safer path. The choice is clear: We can wait and face a more dangerous and uncertain future, or we can embrace a more secure and prosperous direction. We are seeing signs of renewed momentum to address climate change and this should mount in the coming months.”

Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development: "(The new IPCC report) shows that countries, communities and companies must act fast to adapt to the changing climate, but it shows too that there are limits to adaptation and this drives home the urgency of global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now is the time for unprecedented global solidarity and cooperation. Now is the opportunity for true leaders to shine. Some of the world’s least developed countries are already forging ahead. Ethiopia has committed to carbon-neutral development. Bangladesh has invested $10 billion of its own money to adapt to extreme climatic events. Nepal is the first country to develop adaptation plans at the community level. It is time for the richer countries to pull their weight and do the right thing, by investing at home and abroad in actions that can reduce emissions and protect people and property from danger."

Kaisa Kosonen, senior political advisor, Greenpeace International: "Scientists are warning us, but they are not telling us to give up. The solutions are already here. A growing wave of people, communities, corporations and investors around the world are already making a difference by moving to clean and safe, renewable energy and demanding governments to stand with them. There’s a better future than the one we are currently offered and it’s ours if we want to grasp it.”

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