On March 28, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a summary of its latest report. This 44-page summary is intended for the world’s policymakers and distills the collective research of hundreds of scientific authors over the course of four years.
According to Robert Stavins, a lead author in the report and the Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, “The central purpose of the IPCC Assessment Reports is to survey and synthesize the best published research on climate change, including its causes, consequences, and potential mitigation.”
And those consequences are dire. In reference to a previous IPCC report published in 2007, co-author Saleeml Huq, the Director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development at Independent University in Bangladesh, has stated that “things are worse than we predicted.”
If carbon emissions are not curbed, the report explains, extreme environmental disasters are in store. In fact, the world is already experiencing the drastic effects of climate change. European deaths from an unprecedented heat wave in 2003 numbered in the thousands. Meanwhile, in 2013, California and Australia experienced droughts and wildfires well above their average intensity and duration. According to the IPCC, this is just the beginning.
This most recent report goes into greater detail on the human cost of climate change. The damage to ecosystems will affect economic growth and agriculture and exacerbate existing issues, such as poverty, sickness and violence.
The report emphasizes that the dangers will only grow as the oceans rise and acidify, and these damages will not discriminate. As co-author and Princeton University Professor Michael Oppenheimer stated in an interview, “We’re all sitting ducks.”
The full report is still awaiting final publication. The summary was approved by the UN’s member governments during the 12th Session of IPCC WG III in Berlin, Germany and can be downloaded here.