Last week, the Agence France-Presse, a French news agency, obtained a leaked copy of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) draft report, the final version of which is scheduled to be publicly released in February of 2022.
“Climate change will fundamentally reshape life on Earth in the coming decades, even if humans can tame planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions,” the AFP wrote based on the IPCC’s findings. “Species extinction, more widespread disease, unliveable heat, ecosystem collapse, cities menaced by rising seas — these and other devastating climate impacts are accelerating and bound to become painfully obvious before a child born today turns 30.”
Contained within the unpublished document are dire warnings about the coming consequences of climate change that are so imminently threatening that the AFP referred to the report as “a 4,000-page indictment of humanity’s stewardship of the planet.”
The coming decades, the report states in unambiguous terms, are going to test the resilience of life on planet Earth and its ability to adapt to a rapidly changing biosphere. Most alarmingly, the IPCC’s prognosis for humanity’s capacity to evolve borders on the terminal.
“The choices societies make now will determine whether our species thrives or simply survives as the 21st century unfolds,” AFP gleaned from the IPCC’s draft report, noting that “dangerous thresholds are closer than once thought, and dire consequences stemming from decades of unbridled carbon pollution are unavoidable in the short term.”
The report “warns that previous major climate shocks dramatically altered the environment and wiped out most species, raising the question of whether humanity is sowing the seeds of its own demise,” AFP said.
“Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems,” IPCC cautions. “Humans cannot.”
In fact, the IPCC calculates, it may already be too late to prevent the planet from heating past the 1.5 degrees Celcius benchmark set by the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. One estimate predicts that the threshold will be crossed in 2026.
“Even at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, conditions will change beyond many organisms’ ability to adapt,” the report forewarns, adding that despite the moderate steps nations are taking to switch to carbon-neutral sources of energy, “current levels of adaptation will be inadequate to respond to future climate risks.”
The report also delves into the issue of “tipping points,” or points of no return, for curbing or reversing the effects of global warming.
“Losses of habitat and resilience, over-exploitation, water extraction, pollution, invasive non-native species, and dispersal of pests and diseases” are all having enormous impacts on life’s ability to compensate for the cost of growth.
But, the IPCC stresses, it is not too late for humanity to drastically alter its behavior, although the chances of that happening are slim.
“We need transformational change operating on processes and behaviors at all levels: individual, communities, business, institutions, and governments,” it says. “We must redefine our way of life and consumption.”
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.