Extreme weather: Flooding in Thailand

For the first time, climate scientists have teamed up with experts in disaster risk management on a report on climate change, which found that the consequences of climate change on people around the world are going to increase.

The inescapable conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summary report, released last week in Kampala following discussions by policy makers − Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation, or SREX − is that climate change is fuelling extreme weather and there will be an escalation of impacts on people and economies.

The IPCC’s findings tell us that we need to prepare for the impacts of climate change and is a strong wake up to governments to make the world a safer place. They must address the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

World environment ministers have this chance at the UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa, which starts at the end of November. There, they are supposed to take steps to protect people from the ravages of climate change.

As the Earth’s atmosphere and the oceans warm, extreme weather systems become more powerful and destructive. That means more costly weather events for our economies, more pain and suffering for people.

The world will be hard pressed to handle the costs of damaged infrastructure or the health costs of increasingly devastating disasters, especially at this time of economic crisis.

After two decades of international climate negotiations, greenhouse gas emissions are up, not down, and the world’s addiction to fossil fuels is leading us blindly towards climate chaos.

Governments must develop adaptation strategies to try to protect people from the unavoidable impacts of climate change, and must develop measures to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Adaptation is important. But sea walls can only be built so high; structures can only be made so strong. Adaption without dealing with rising global emissions is like mopping the bathroom floor whilst leaving the tap running – dealing with the consequences whilst ignoring the root of the problem.

The chilling warning in the IPCC report is based on a temperature increase of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius, not the 6 degree increase we are on course for now. Already, the average global temperature has increased by 0.8 degrees Celsius.

The threats from climate change will only get worse if environment ministers don’t agree in Durban to take action to slow down climate change. Let’s put in a language they understand - it makes economic sense for them to act now to prevent a higher price later on.

But on a humanitarian level, there is no argument: in Durban, it is the duty of ministers to agree to binding steps to protect people from climate chaos. Let’s hope that the IPCC’s findings finally spur the world to real action on climate change.

Brian Blomme is a climate and energy communications manager for Greenpeace International

Read More: Greenpeace: Climate Impacts
IPCC Report: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation

Take Action: Choose the Energy [R]evolution

Photo: A woman walks through a flooded street at Bang Kae district in Bangkok. Intensifying climate impacts coupled with unsustainable development could bear heavy economic costs, damage agriculture and pollute water sources in Southeast Asia. © Athit Perawongmetha/Greenpeace