It is real and it is already happening. Human-caused climate change has already been proven to increase the risk of floods and extreme rainfall, heat waves and wildfires with implications for humans, animals and the environment.
And things aren’t looking good for the future either. With the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere projected to maintain an average 411 parts per million (ppm) throughout 2019, there is a long way to go before the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement are met.
To put this into context: atmospheric CO2 hovered around 280 ppm before the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1750, the 46 per cent increase since then is the main cause of global warming. Reliable temperature records began in 1850 and our world is now about one degree Celsius hotter than in the “pre-industrial” period.
Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.
1.Climate Risk Exposure
All countries are being impacted by climate change but some are facing much more acute challenges than others. So we are returning to a theme we have addressed before: identifying and scoring the countries that are most exposed to climate change risks, as well as those best placed to respond to them.
Climate change manifests through rising temperatures, can alter hydrological (water) cycles and exacerbates extreme weather events. In turn this means higher risks to energy, food and water systems, populations and the global economy. Over 2030 to 2050, the World Health Organization (WHO) expects 250,000 additional deaths per year due to climate change.
Furthermore, as the world seeks to limit climate change, we believe a combination of climate policy and disruptive cleaner technologies, which do not use fossil fuels (particularly in the power and transport sectors), mean that the peak for fossil fuel demand may arrive in the coming years. In this report, we look at which countries are most vulnerable to climate change – in terms of both the physical impacts and the associated energy transition risks – and which are better placed to respond to these pressures.
India, followed by Pakistan and the Philippines, are the most vulnerable countries to climate change. South and South-East Asian countries account for five of the ten most vulnerable countries. Countries from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa are also in this group.
Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally.
2.Risk to Biodiversity
A large fraction of species faces increased extinction risk due to climate change during and beyond the 21st century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors. Most plant species cannot naturally shift their geographical ranges sufficiently fast to keep up with current and high projected rates of climate change in most landscapes; most small mammals and freshwater mollusks will not be able to keep up at the rates projected rise and above in flat landscapes in this century.
Future risk is indicated to be high by the observation that natural global climate change at rates lower than current anthropogenic climate change caused significant ecosystem shifts and species extinctions during the past millions of years.
Marine organisms will face progressively lower oxygen levels and high rates and magnitudes of ocean acidification, with associated risks exacerbated by rising ocean temperature extremes. Coral reefs and polar ecosystems are highly vulnerable.
Coastal systems and low-lying areas are at risk from sea level rise, which will continue for centuries even if the global mean temperature is stabilized.
3.Risk to Food Security
Climate change is projected to undermine food security. Due to projected climate change by the mid-21st century and beyond, global marine species redistribution and marine biodiversity reduction in sensitive regions will challenge the sustained provision of fisheries productivity and other ecosystem services. For wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions, climate change without adaptation is projected to negatively impact production for local temperature increases of 2°C or more above late 20th century levels, although individual locations may benefit.
Global temperature increases of ~4°C or more13 above late 20th century levels, combined with increasing food demand, would pose large risks to food security globally. Climate change is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources in most dry subtropical regions, intensifying competition for water among sectors.
In urban areas climate change is projected to increase risks for people, assets, economies and ecosystems, including risks from heat stress, storms and extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, air pollution, drought, water scarcity, sea level rise and storm surges. These risks are amplified for those lacking essential infrastructure and services or living in exposed areas.
Rural areas are expected to experience major impacts on water availability and supply, food security, infrastructure and agricultural incomes, including shifts in the production areas of food and non-food crops around the world.
4.Shrinking Ice Sheets
The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016, while Antarctica lost about 127 billion tons of ice per year during the same time period. The rate of Antarctica ice mass loss has tripled in the last decade.
The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
Continuing climate change will affect, in profoundly adverse ways, some of the social and environmental determinants of health: food, air and water, according to WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.
Warming greater than the global annual average is being experienced in many land regions and seasons, including two to three times higher in the Arctic. Warming is generally higher over land than over the ocean. Trends in intensity and frequency of some climate and weather extremes have been detected over time spans during which about 0.5°C of global warming occurred.