'Sobering' new climate report warns world is on verge of irreversible damage

FILE - Shayanne Summers holds her dog, Toph, while wrapped in a blanket after several days of staying in a tent at an evacuation center at the Milwaukie-Portland Elks Lodge, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Oak Grove, Ore. The United Nations on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, released a new report on climate change. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

A new climate report released this week by a global panel of scientists warned that the evidence of human-caused climate change is continuing to mount and that the planet is inching closer to irreversible damage should nothing be done to mitigate the warming of Earth's climate.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which comprises 270 scientists from 67 countries, released a report on Monday, Feb. 28, addressing the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and human communities at global and regional levels, called "Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability."

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, who closely monitors climate impacts, described the new report as "sobering." He added that the new report emphasizes "that the extent and magnitude of climate change impacts across the world are worse than earlier estimates."

The panel puts out a series of in-depth reports every five to seven years. The last version was released in 2014 and every year since then has been among the hottest ever recorded, and the impacts of climate change have become increasingly more apparent.

FILE - People stand in front of Kemerkoy Thermal Power Plant with a blaze from a wildfire approaching in the background, in Milas, Mugla, Turkey, Aug. 3, 2021. A panel of scientists convened by the UN has published a report on the impacts of climate change on the planet, including on the natural world and human civilization. (AP Photo/Emre Tazegul, File)

According to Monday's 36-page summary, which condensed more than 3,000 pages of analysis, if human-caused global warming isn't limited to just another couple tenths of a degree, then the Earth as we know it will degrade in 127 ways, with some of them being "potentially irreversible."

Between 2010 and 2020, people were 15 times more likely to die from extreme weather, such as floods, droughts and storms, according to the report. Moreover, the scientists added, worsening weather extremes are displacing a large number of people, and the world's poor are being hit the hardest.

"Climate change is killing people," co-author Helen Adams of King's College London said. "Yes, things are bad, but actually, the future depends on us, not the climate."

According to the report, the changing climate has already had an adverse effect on people's mental and physical health globally. However, as the temperature continues to rise, diseases will emerge in new areas, extreme weather, like heat waves, will intensify and starvation will increase, which will have a substantial effect on the health of the world's population.

In the 2015 Paris agreement, the world adopted a temperature threshold limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. In 2018, an IPCC report showed devastating repercussions beyond the 1.5-degree mark. The report released on Monday found that exceeding the temperature threshold could cause permanent damage.

A projection showing how temperatures will continue to rise if mitigation measures aren't taken. (Climate Central)

The future of vulnerable ecosystems due to climate change will be strongly influenced by human society's past, present and future development. According to the IPCC report, the projected climate change, combined with non-climatic drivers, will cause loss and degradation of much of the world's forests, coral reefs and low-lying coastal wetlands.

Warming of just a few tenths of a degree Celsius could lead to areas like small islands becoming uninhabitable or other areas becoming "too hot" for people to work outside, creating new challenges for harvesting crops.

And other impacts will be felt around the globe. According to the report, if the temperature rises another nine-tenths of a degree Celsius from now, the amount of land burned by wildfires will increase by 35% globally.

Two species -- the mammal Bramble Cays melomys in Australia and Central America's golden toad - have gone extinct, and more climate change extinctions could come as temperatures rise, the report warns. Half of the species assessed in this report globally have shifted poleward or on to higher elevation land due to the changing climate.

With just a few tenths of a degree of warming, children today, who may still be alive in 2100, will experience four times more climate extremes than they do now. If temperatures increase by nearly 2 degrees C (3.4 degrees F), today's children will feel five times the weather extremes by 2100.

If the temperature overshoots the threshold of 1.5 degrees C, "then many humans and natural systems will face additional severe risks ... some will be irreversible, even if global warming is reduced," according to Monday's report.

In the year 2020, the observed global temperature change was inching closer to 1.5 degrees Celsius. (Climate Central)

The world is currently 1.1 degrees C (2 degrees F) warmer than pre-industrial times and emissions are still rising. Most of future scenarios show that temperatures are on track to go beyond the 1.5-degree threshold by 2030. While surpassing that threshold by 2030 would severely impact the world as we know it, scientists note that it would not be a point of no return for the world.

"Every bit of warming matters. The longer you wait ... the more you will pay," co-chair Hans-Oto Poertner of Germany told The Associated Press in an interview.

Current global financial flows for adaptation, including from public and private finance sources, are "insufficient ... especially in developing countries," according to the report. Countries, particularly wealthy nations, need to do a better job of providing financial help to poorer nations to adjust to climate change caused mainly by the developing world, the report concluded.

Near-term actions that limit global warming to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius would substantially reduce projected losses and damages related to climate change in human systems and ecosystems, compared to high warming levels, but they cannot eliminate them all.

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