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IPCC report says choices made now are critical for the future of our ocean and cryosphere

Wed 25 September 2019 | Back to news list

A new, landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the urgency of prioritizing timely, ambitious and coordinated action to address unprecedented and enduring changes in the ocean and cryosphere (the frozen parts of the planet). It says that extreme sea level events that used to happen once a century will occur every year in many parts of the world by the middle of the century because of global heating.
 
In a wide-ranging report on how oceans, glaciers and ice sheets will react to a warming world, the IPCC has raised earlier projections for how much the seas could rise.
 
New Scientist reports that Ko Barrett of US government agency NOAA says: “Sea level rise and associated impacts threatens the lives and livelihoods of large segments of our population.”
 
The ocean and the cryosphere play a critical role for life on Earth. The report says that a total of 670 million people in high mountain regions and 680 million people in low-lying coastal zones depend directly on these systems. Four million people live permanently in the Arctic region, and small island developing states are home to 65 million people.
 
Global warming has already reached 1°C above the pre-industrial level, due to past and current greenhouse gas emissions. There is overwhelming evidence, the report says, that this is resulting in profound consequences for ecosystems and people.
 
However, urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions limits the scale of ocean and cryosphere changes. Ecosystems and the livelihoods that depend on them can be preserved.
 
Chair of the IPCC Hoesung Lee said: "The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people, but we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways – for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and wellbeing, for culture and identity.
 
“If we reduce emissions sharply, consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable.
 
“We increase our ability to build resilience and there will be more benefits for sustainable development.”
 
The report presents options to adapt to changes that can no longer be avoided, manage related risks and build resilience for a sustainable future. The assessment shows that adaptation depends on the capacity of individuals and
communities and the resources available to them.
 
The Guardian reports, however, that extreme sea level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts by 2050, no matter whether climate heating emissions are curbed or not.
 
The report, it says, concludes that many serious impacts are already inevitable, from more intense storms to melting permafrost and dwindling marine life. But far worse impacts will hit if there is no urgent action to cut fossil fuel emissions.
 
Meanwhile, speaking at the 2019 UN climate action summit in New York, climate activist and School Strikes leader Greta Thunberg urged world leaders to act with urgency. She said: "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words...We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth - how dare you!"
 

 

Related News: An international poll has found that the climate crisis is seen as 'most important issue' by the public. The eight-country poll shows people view climate crisis as a priority over migration, terrorism and the global economy.

The poll surveyed more than 1,000 people in the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, Brazil, France, Poland and the US. It found that at least three-quarters of the public think the world is facing a “climate emergency”, with climate breakdown at risk of becoming “extremely dangerous”.



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