Climate scientists from around the world confirm the humanitarian impact of climate change in a report released today by UN climate panel IPCC. Maarten van Aalst, Professor of Climate and Disaster Resilience at the University of Twente and director of the International Red Cross Climate Centre, is one of the lead authors. ‘This report represents a red alert for humanity, an urgent warning of what is heading our way. It confirms what we already see happening, what we expect for the future and – most importantly – what we can do to limit the impact.’
Over 200 climate experts from around the world contributed to the report, entitled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. It builds on last summer’s climate report describing the processes occurring in the Earth’s atmosphere and the oceans – and translates them into impacts on human populations and ecosystems. It shows that a whole range of risks are already apparent and set to increase more rapidly as global warming continues. For the first time, the IPCC also reports that climate change is already leading to humanitarian crises, which hit vulnerable communities hardest of all. The changing climate is disrupting the lives of billions of people, especially the world’s poorest populations.
The report confirms a number of aspects that emergency response organisations such as the Red Cross are already encountering on a day-to-day basis. First, it highlights the urgent need for real action to tackle the causes of climate change. Second, it emphasises the need to do more to address the mounting risks: responding to disasters after they occur is not enough when it comes to saving lives and combating the crises of the future. Third, the latest science confirms that the impacts and risks of climate change exacerbate the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups and amplify social and economic inequality around the world. This in turn intensifies acute development problems, especially in developing countries and in vulnerable environments such as coastal areas, small islands, deserts, mountains and polar regions.
‘This report tells us unequivocally that we need a firm change of course to secure a liveable future,’ Van Aalst warns. ‘All the risks that concerned us in the past are now heading towards us at an even faster pace. But the report also shows that it’s not too late. Most importantly, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid a worst case scenario. But we also need to improve how we handle the risks that we can no longer prevent. Many of the solutions, such as better extreme weather warnings and social safety nets, have already proven their worth.’
Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Red Cross, calls on governments and civil society organisations to provide both local aid and financial support for the most vulnerable to halt the devastating humanitarian impact of the climate crisis.