Carbon pollution must be ‘sharply’ cut to lessen destruction of rising oceans: IPCC report


“Hurricane Sandy” by jaydensonbx is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The world’s scientists are urging countries to harness Indigenous knowledge and deploy more renewable energy technology after concluding that carbon pollution levels are leading to unprecedented sea-level rise and loss of glaciers, ice sheets and permafrost.

The latest study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most comprehensive to date of the current and future impacts of the climate crisis on Earth’s oceans and the cryosphere, or the parts of the planet that are covered in ice. It represents the work of 104 scientists from 36 countries and draws on 7,000 publications.

The report concludes that ice will continue to disappear and sea levels will continue to rise at staggering rates — even if the international community is able to limit the pollution created by the burning of fossil fuels and their products, like coal, gasoline and natural gas, and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The shrinking cryosphere has led to “predominantly negative impacts” on people’s “livelihoods” and their “health and well-being,” the report reads, affecting everything from food and water availability to infrastructure, business and the “culture of human societies,” especially for Indigenous Peoples.

Scientists say there are solutions to address this crisis — but only if the global community acts urgently and adopts the knowledge and capabilities of those who will be most affected by climate change. “Adaptation efforts have benefited from the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge,” it states.

But time is of the essence. The world’s oceans have already absorbed “more than 90 per cent of the excess heat in the climate system,” and since 1993, the rate of ocean warming has more than doubled, reads the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC).

Rising ocean temperatures means more intense tropical cyclones, with more powerful storm surges and downpours, leading to more extreme weather along the coasts and potentially devastating loss of marine ecosystems.

“If we reduce emissions sharply, consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable,” Hoesung Lee, chairman of the IPCC, said in a statement.

One-quarter of North’s permafrost in danger

The Earth’s population depends on the global ocean, covering almost three-quarters of the planet’s surface and containing almost all of the Earth’s water. Around a tenth of Earth’s land area is covered by glaciers or ice sheets. All of these ecosystems are deeply threatened by global heating, the IPCC’s new report finds.

“The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people,” said Lee. “But we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways — for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and well-being, for culture and identity.”

The picture the SROCC report paints is extremely dire, and will deeply affect the roughly 650 million people living in low-lying coastal areas, as well as the four million people who live in the Arctic region permanently, including 400,000 Indigenous Peoples. MORE

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