A landmark United Nations report says soaring carbon emissions will intensify the risks of conflict, hunger, floods and migration this century.
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The report released by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday announced that the impacts of climate change are already widespread.
IPCC chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri said the stability of human social structures could be at risk if no action was taken on the report's finding.
"We have reasons to believe that if the world doesn't do anything to mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases, the very social stability of human systems could be at stake," he said.
Speaking at a press conference in Japan on Monday, Dr Pachauri said climate change was found to lead to displacement and increased conflicts, as well as presenting risk to areas such as low lying coastal areas.
"There are negative impacts on crop yields… and this has serious implications for food security," he said.
"This would really be a severe challenge for some of the poorest communities and poorest regions in the world."
Mr Jarraud said there was potential for disaster amid extreme weather events.
"We know all the ingredients are there for a new food crisis to come," he said.
"You just need a few extreme [events]."
Most solid evidence available
Michael Jarraud of the World Meteorological Organisation described the report as the "most solid evidence" available.
"We are at the point where you we have so much information, so much evidence, we can no longer plead ignorance," he said.
"We have the information to make decisions."
Mr Christopher Field, IPCC Working Group II co-chair, presented some of the key findings of the report.
"We live in a world where impacts of climate changes that have already occurred are widespread," he said.
"The risks to global food security are really profound and a really strong motivation… for making smart decisions to ensure we have a world that can cope effectively with these problems."
Poorest will suffer most from climate change impacts
Dr Pachauri said many people in developing countries live in rural areas and rely on crops to support themselves and their family.
He said that the predicted falling crop yields could force these people into increasing poverty and displacement, exacerbating the factors that lead to conflict.
"That certainly would lead to conflict," he said.
"Where would these people go? This would lead to climate refugees."
Dr Maggie Opondo, from the University of Nairobi, said people already living in poverty would become further trapped by the impacts of climate change.
"Poverty is going to intensify the impacts of climate change," she said.
"… Add the impact of climate change or extreme events, people become more vulnerable and sink deeper into poverty."
Uncertain future for Australia's tourism, agriculture industries
The latest IPCC report shows an uncertain future for Australia's tourism and agricultural industries due to climate change.
The report also shows the Great Barrier Reef is degrading from increased coral bleaching, with some local native species facing extinction.
The global mean sea level rise, which is projected to be 0.28-0.98 metres by 2100, is also expected to impact Australia's marine ecosystem.
The report's chapter on Australasia listed some key risks, including:
- Increasing risk of death, infrastructure losses and ecosystem damage due to wildfires, heatwaves and floods
- Increasing risk to coastal infrastructure and low-lying ecosystems in Australia and New Zealand from continuing sea level rise
- Extinction of some native species both locally and globally
- Significant change in community composition and structure of coral reef systems in Australia
- Constraints on water resources in southern Australia and 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.
- The intensity of tropical cyclones is also projected to increase.
Contributing author to the Australasian chapter of IPCC report, Professor Barbara Norman said Australia was already unable to cope extreme weather events, which have caused significant loss to life and assets in recent years.
Professor Norman said there were major implications for the location of new development, redevelopment and infrastructure, stating that planning systems throughout Australia needed to be revised to include the impacts of climate change.
“The location of new urban growth corridor and major infrastructure has long-term consequences,” she said.
“However, Queensland, NSW and increasingly Victoria are removing climate change impacts as a consideration… We need an adaptation strategy for Australia agreed to by all levels of government in consultation with industry and affected communities.”
Read: IPCC Summary for Policymakers
Full report can be found here.
The work comes six months after the first volume in the long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report declared scientists were more certain than ever that humans caused global warming.
The panel has issued four previous "assessment reports" in its quarter-century history.
The IPCC's last big report in 2007 helped unleash political momentum leading to the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen.
Read: Full IPCC report