It threatens to undo everything that conservation organizations like WWF have achieved over the last half-century. Both people and the natural world are feeling the effects, which are consequential and growing. Extreme weather impacts fragile ecosystems that people depend on for food and their livelihoods.
And the age of extreme weather has arrived. Numerous reports, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s last report, have predicted growing impacts on food and water sources, with consequential impacts on the health and wealth of both people and the planet, a view that has been underscored time and again by subsequent reports by equally authoritative bodies.
In its report called What We Know, the world’s largest scientific organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science says “the range of uncertainty for the warming along the current emissions path is wide enough to encompass massively disruptive consequences to societies and ecosystems: as global temperatures rise, there is a real risk, however small, that one or more critical parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes.”
In Turn Down the Heat, the World Bank says that in a much warmer world “we can expect extremes in flooding and droughts, in heat waves and water scarcity, in increased intensity of storms and irreversible loss of biodiversity.”
The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach of millions of people in the developing world, it threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development. Most importantly, as the World Bank says, a warmer world comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs.
The meeting in Yokohama this week of the IPCC will produce a new report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of climate change. From predictions and news that have already emerged, we know that this part of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment’s report will confirm the trends we see from previous reports, and that people worldwide are experiencing.
But there can be a different future, a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. WWF’s mission is to protect the magnificent array of living things that inhabit our planet and to create a healthy and prosperous future.
The risk of ignoring what the science is telling us is huge. The longer we delay real action, the more difficult and expensive addressing climate change will get.
But time is short and the time for action is now. It is my hope that the IPCC report will bring the kind of reality check that is needed for political action and the tough choices we must make for a new global climate agreement in Paris in 2015.
Samantha Smith is the leader of WWF’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative firstname.lastname@example.org wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/aboutcc/problems/