US Secretary of State John Kerry is a man with things on his mind: Putin’s bad attitude, genocide in Syria, a ticking clock for a Palestinian and Israeli peace deal. Yet with all this, he knows that the climate system needs to be at the top or near the top of his priority list. His reaction to the new report on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability from the IPCC is clear: “The costs of inaction are catastrophic.” His statement yesterday reminds us that we are on very thin ice and we can hear it starting to crack.
Vicente Barros, one of the co-chairs of Working Group II said in a release: “We live in an era of man-made climate change. In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face.” We have seen the impacts of climate change grow and this report documents the broad array of those, and it is pretty clear about the fact that things are going to get worse before they get better. The BBC’s excellent, comprehensive coverage includes quotes from a number of experts:
- “More knowledge is always good, more action would be even better.” – Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action
- “This report presents a stark case for sharply reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to avoid potentially catastrophic impacts…” – Lord Nicholas Stern, chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy
- “The atmosphere can no longer be used as an open sewer.” – Al Gore
The BBC has five videos that highlight some of the major impacts we’re facing: melting ice, changes to ecosystems, more acidic oceans, extreme weather events, and the threat to food supplies. The chapter in the new report on Food security and food production systems has been getting, as you would expect, a lot of attention. The Guardian reports here that food is a principal concern. “‘Climate change is acting as a brake. We need yields to grow to meet growing demand, but already climate change is slowing those yields,’ said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton professor and an author of the report.”
There is a lot of media coverage and it’s critical that the key messages of the report get out and get heard not only by policy makers but by everyone. The other co-chair of Working Group II, Chris Field, said: “With high levels of warming that result from continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions, risks will be challenging to manage, and even serious, sustained investments in adaptation will face limits. The report concludes that people, societies, and ecosystems are vulnerable around the world, but with different vulnerability in different places. Climate change often interacts with other stresses to increase risk.”
I had my head busted in a demonstration years ago because I believed that we are all leaders. I guess I’m saying that we all better become leaders in this crisis because everything is at stake.