Climate change – a new benchmark report

Under the headline, “Millions face starvation as world warms, say scientists,” the Guardian published this article at the top of the page, which was news in itself.

Frank Rijsberman, head of the world’s 15 international CGIAR crop research centres, which study food insecurity, said: “Food production will have to rise 60% by 2050 just to keep pace with expected global population increase and changing demand. Climate change comes on top of that. The annual production gains we have come to expect … will be taken away by climate change. We are not so worried about the total amount of food produced so much as the vulnerability of the one billion people who are without food already and who will be hit hardest by climate change. They have no capacity to adapt.”

The likely impact of climate change was rammed home by this US National Climate Assessment report, the draft version of which was still in circulation. Basically, this report by the NCADAC adopts a US-centric approach (“What’s going to happen in the US?”) but of course they’ve had to take global data into account and their conclusions closely parallel those of the 2007 IPCC report, i.e. (i) global warming is a reality, (ii) we caused it, and (iii) we’re not doing enough to stave off catastrophic consequences.

The NCADAC report also dots some useful Is:

Climate change produces a variety of stresses on society, affecting human health, natural ecosystems, built environments, and existing social, institutional and legal agreements. These stresses interact with each other and with other non-climate stresses, such as habitat fragmentation, pollution, increased consumption patterns, and biodiversity loss.  […]

Maintaining a robust public health infrastructure will be critical to managing the potential health impacts of climate change.  […]

…beyond the next few decades, the amount of climate change will still largely be determined by choices society makes about emissions. Lower emissions mean less future warming and less severe impacts; higher emissions would mean more warming and more severe impacts. The choices about emissions pathway fall into a category of response options usually referred to as “mitigation” – ways to reduce the amount and speed of future climate change by reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases. […]

The other major category of response options is known as “adaptation” and refers to changes made to better respond to new conditions, thereby reducing harm or taking advantage of opportunity. Mitigation and adaptation are linked, in that effective mitigation reduces the need for adaptation. Both are essential parts of a comprehensive response strategy. The threat of irreversible impacts makes the timing of mitigation efforts particularly critical.  […]

Large reductions in global emissions, similar to the lower emissions scenario (B1) analyzed in this assessment, would be necessary to avoid some of the worst impacts and risks of climate change. The targets called for in international agreements would require even larger reductions than those outlined in scenario B1 (Figure 1). Meanwhile, global emissions are still rising, and are on track to be even higher than the high emissions scenario (A2) analyzed in this report.  […]

Right on cue, the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii has announced that atmospheric CO2 will reach 400ppm in the next few days:

“I wish it weren’t true but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400ppm level without losing a beat. At this pace we’ll hit 450ppm within a few decades,” said Ralph Keeling, a geologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography which operates the Hawaiian observatory.

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