March 31, 2014
UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Impacts volume of the Fifth Assessment Report ----- Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerabilities----- is the second of three reports to make up the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. The first, The Physical Science basis, was released in September 2013. The final part, Mitigation of Climate Change, will be released next month, with the compiled report due in late 2014.
Nearly 500 people have signed off on the wording of the report, including 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers. There has been no reverse in the trend of global warming, the warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths and the emissions from fossil fuels has increased. That means more floods, more droughts and more intense heatwaves.
The Report states that the observed impacts of climate change are "widespread (from the equator to the poles) and consequential (it's already affecting food supply). It is leading to increasing risks for coastal infrastructure and low-lying ecosystems in Australia, threatening “widespread damage towards the upper end of projected sea-level-rise ranges.
In the Conversation professors Colin Butler and Helen Louise Berry, and Emeritus professor Anthony McMichael say that up to now what has been missing from the public debates:
is the threat climate change poses to Earth’s life-support system – from declines in regional food yields, freshwater shortage, damage to settlements from extreme weather events and loss of habitable, especially coastal, land. The list goes on: changes in infectious disease patterns and the mental health consequences of trauma, loss, displacement and resource conflict.
No doubt the denialists and sceptics will try and argue that it would be cheaper to adapt to climate change and pay the costs of climate damages, rather than reduce (or mitigate) human greenhouse gas emissions and switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Since 1950, Australia has warmed by between 0.4C and 0.7C, the sea level rising by around 70mm and a “greater frequency and intensity of droughts and heatwaves”. Australia is facing increasing risks for “coastal infrastructure and low-lying ecosystems” and is set to experience a “significant reduction in agricultural production in the Murray-Darling Basin and far south-eastern and south-western Australia if scenarios of severe drying are realised.
However, increased sea level and increased severity of flooding and storm surges aren’t that big a problem if your cities are located in areas that are elevated above land vulnerable to inundation and wave erosion, and where barriers are erected to counter such events. Likewise bushfires aren’t much of a problem if your house is built in areas away from forests or is highly resistant to catching fire.