By Timothy Cama - 03/31/14 10:45 AM EDT
A new U.N. report says the effects of climate change are already being felt all over the world, and leaders need to act quickly to prevent further catastrophes.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) dire report released Monday focuses on changes that leaders could make to prepare for the effects, saying “adaptation and mitigation choices in the near-term will affect the risks of climate change throughout the 21st century.”
People have already begun adapting to the effects of climate change, but the focus has been more on reacting to events than preparing for those likely in the future, the panel said.
“With high levels of warming that result from continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions, risks will be challenging to manage, and even serious, sustained investments in adaptation will face limits,” Chris Field, another IPCC co-chairman said in the statement.
IPCC identified a number of areas in which climate change is already being felt, including agriculture, human health, ocean and land ecosystems, water supplies and peoples’ livelihoods. Climate change has touched people nearly everywhere in the world, regardless of income level.
“Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming,” Field said.
The report, which was approved unanimously by more than 100 governments on the panel in Yokohama, Japan, recommends that world leaders work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow the effects of climate change, while helping the most at-risk people to adapt to inevitable changes that cannot be avoided.
Democratic lawmakers and Obama administration officials said the report adds urgency to the climate change debate.
“The latest IPCC report adds a tremendous sense of urgency for Congress to wake up and do everything in its power to reduce dangerous carbon pollution,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. “It confirms that we must cut carbon pollution now to avoid lasting changes to our planet.”
“This report is about the realities and responses of climate change, but what it really tells us is that we have a responsibility to act decisively and quickly to avoid catastrophic impacts in the future,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement. “This report is a frightening compendium of coming catastrophe for the planet.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said the report should spur leaders around the world to take action on climate change, adding that the “costs of inaction are catastrophic.”
Obama science adviser John Holdren similarly saw the report as a call to action.
“The IPCC’s new report underscores the need for immediate action in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. It reflects scientists’ increased confidence that the kinds of harm already being experienced as a result of climate change are likely to worsen as the world continues to warm,” Holdren said in a statement.
Holdren said it reinforces the importance of work such as President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate climate change, prepare for the changes that cannot be stopped and work with other countries to mitigate the effects.