The Februrary 2022 IPCC Working Group II report is titled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. It provides an analysis of the probable impacts of climate change on human and natural systems, possible adaptation strategies and the conditions necessary to enact them, and it outlines the meaning and significance of Climate Resilient Development – the ideal approach to the challenges presented by anthropogenic climate change.
Among the observed impacts of climate change are increases in frequency in hot extremes in both land and marine environments, heavy precipitation events, droughts, fires, coral degradation, and mortality.
All these things negatively affect humans and our surrounding environment. Hot extremes lead to heat-related mortality during heatwaves, drought-related tree mortality deprives us of trees, devastated marine environments lead to economic troubles in states which depend on these for their economic health, and disruptions such as droughts affect our access to food and water. This last point can be seen in slowed agricultural growth in mid and low latitude regions, particularly in Africa, Asia, small islands, and Central and South America. These areas of the world are currently living in a world that is more precarious with respect to food and water security.
Geographies of Vulnerability
The effects of climate change are not and will not be uniform. The report acknowledges that the magnitude of effects will be felt depending on a state’s geographical location, governance, history, and other socioeconomic factors. 3.3 to 3.6 billion people and a high proportion of animal species are deemed to be highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Near Term (Now to 2040) and Mid-to-Long Term Risks (2041-2100)
These risks depend on whether we can limit warming to 1.5°C. To do so, we would need to have our greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2025 and cut them in roughly half of current output by 2030. Near-term warming of 1.5°C would lead to more common climate hazards, exacerbating the risks faced by current ecosystems. Even if we achieve the 1.5°C objective, though, there would still be dangers to contend with, such as the currently observed impacts detailed previously.
Mid-to-long term risks and their severity rest on how successful current governments are in reducing and addressing warming and its causes. Temperatures rising above 1.5°C to reach 2°C would lead to more severe climactic phenomena. Blowing past the 1.5°C goal to temperatures such as 3°C will put even more pressure on the planet’s ecosystems.
Exceeding 1.5°C will lead to practically irreversible changes, even if the causes of such warming are addressed and corrected after the fact.
Addressing Climate Change
The report notes that efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change have been seen in all sectors and regions of the world. It, however, states that these efforts have been unevenly distributed with gaps in capacities to adapt depending on the country. Furthermore, the report notes most measures taken address the near-term at the expense of long-term economic reorganizations which are necessary avert the risks posed by climate change.
The IPCC remarks that it is not too late to adopt policies which can ease our burden. These options are feasible, though large-scale coordination is needed to firmly establish them.
Limits to Our Capacity to Adapt
States and peoples around the world are constrained by factors relevant to finance, governance, institutions, and policy. These factors become relevant depending on the country in question, with some having reached the limit of what can be done (especially the case with small island nations and smallholder farmers around the world).
Many conditions are needed in countries which can still do much to curtail the effects of climate change. The report lists many of them: political will, institutional frameworks which converge on climate change mitigation and adaptation, national mobilization and access to financial resources, inclusive governance policies, better knowledge on the problems being faced and their solutions, and careful and vigilant monitoring.
If the previously listed conditions are met, then states would ideally begin a process of systemic transformation. The urban, infrastructural, energy, industrial, and societal spheres would all be reorganized and given the mission of sustainable development.
To achieve such a thing, modern states would need to coordinate their public and private spheres, acting in unison. These spheres would ideally acknowledge the threats posed by climate change and the necessity of decision-making that focuses on climate risk reduction, equity, and justice.
The effects of climate change are already being felt. Past and current trends are not good enough and structural change is needed in the short term. The next decade will determine whether we meet our goals or fail to achieve a decent level of climate-resilient development.