A new report issued Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a dire picture of Earth’s future and presents evidence that the changing climate is already having a severe impact across the globe. Barring drastic new action, the report says, the planet is headed for a series of ecological and humanitarian catastrophes caused by human behaviors.
People and ecosystems in poorer regions are bearing the brunt of the impact, according to the report. Worsening heatwaves, droughts, and floods are causing mass death in certain animal and species, as well as severe food and water insecurity for people without the resources to survive extreme weather and climate events, among other effects. These extreme events have led to some “irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt,” according to an official summary of the report.
The report was written by a group of 270 researchers from 67 countries for the IPCC, which is convened by the United Nations. It was approved Sunday by all 195 member governments of the IPCC, including the United States and China, and represents one of the most comprehensive and authoritative studies of the effects of the climate crisis to date.
The report calls for worldwide action to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Centigrade compared to preindustrial levels, though it notes that even at that level, climate warming will continue to cause severe risks both for ecosystems and humans. It cites some progress in addressing the crisis throughout the world but says that further deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are needed. More than 3 billion people live in climate-change-vulnerable conditions, the report says, and immediate action should be taken assist with climate adaptation and mitigation.
The report comes on the heels of November’s COP26 meeting in Glasgow, where signatories of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement presented plans to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade—an ambitious goal that would require annual greenhouse gas emissions to be halved by 2030. But current pledges leave the world on track for a much more severe increase of 2.4 degrees Centigrade by the end of the century.
The building industry accounts for 38 percent of global carbon emissions, according to a 2020 report issued by the UN-backed Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. Reducing the industry’s impact will require slashing emissions both from new construction and the operation of existing buildings—and will need significant commitment from governments around the world. In addition, the industry will likely need to embrace novel carbon dioxide removal technologies, as RECORD has reported.