On Feb. 28, 2022, the new contribution of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to the 6th Assessment Report was presented. While the first contribution in August 2021 dealt with the physical basis of climate change, this contribution deals with the consequences of climate change and the possibilities to still adapt to it. In it, 270 experts from 67 nations assess the consequences of climate change for ecosystems and biodiversity, for people and society, cultures, settlements and infrastructures.
For the first time, the interactions between climate and nature are examined in detail and the importance of protecting biodiversity and habitats is highlighted: An intact nature dampens many effects of climate change – but at the same time, biodiversity and ecosystems themselves are at risk. Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the working group, states in introducing the paper, “Entire ecosystems could be lost even if we exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius for only a few decades.”
Large sections of the paper explore how humans can arm themselves against some of the risks of climate change. Adaptation and mitigation are possible, for example, through other forms of agriculture or urban planning. As more and more people worldwide live in cities, the climate-resilient development of cities has a special role to play. However, if global warming exceeds 2 degrees Celsius, climate-resilient development will no longer be possible, at least in some regions of the world. For Europe, significant risks are considered to be: Flooding, health hazards and increased mortality from heat, disruption of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, water scarcity, and crop losses from heat, drought and extreme weather.
Pörtner makes clear that “the window of opportunity … is closing.” Greenhouse gas savings and also adaptation measures would have to be accelerated significantly.
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