Coastal cities vanish under the encroaching sea, storms and wildfires wreak havoc on land, food shortages cause widespread famine and starvation, and plants and animals die off in droves.
This is the kind of world we may be forced to accept if we don’t eliminate global greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
That’s the conclusion of the IPCC’s fourth and final installment in the climate reports that together make up its Fifth Assessment ? a compilation and analysis of the latest scientific knowledge on climate change. Three other reports have come out since September 2013, all containing dire warnings about the planet’s future if humans don’t make a concerted effort to reduce their carbon emissions and slow the progress of global warming.
This latest release, on Nov. 2, summarizes and clarifies the science in the previous three. It contains three major takeaways, according to a statement from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:
1. Humans are causing climate change, and our influence is only growing.
2. We have to act fast if we want to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
3. We have the means to limit climate change, if we act now.
The report includes a summary of the observed and projected consequences of climate change, including melting ice, sea level rise, more intense storms, declining crop yields, ocean acidification, and a loss of biodiversity, and it reiterates humans’ role in these effects.
“Read this report and you can’t deny the reality: Unless we act dramatically and quickly, Science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement. “Denial of the science is malpractice.”
“Science has spoken,” Ban said. “There is no ambiguity in the message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”
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