Tiny window, rapidly closing

Not playing games any more.

Climate breakdown is accelerating rapidly, many of the impacts will be more severe than predicted and there is only a narrow chance left of avoiding its worst ravages, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said.

And, one more item, does it look as if anyone is doing enough to avoid its worst ravages? Hell no.

Even at current levels, human actions in heating the climate are causing dangerous and widespread disruption, threatening devastation to swathes of the natural world and rendering many areas unliveable, according to the landmark report published on Monday.

As we keep noting – it’s already happening. Not soon, but now.

In what some scientists termed “the bleakest warning yet”, the summary report from the global authority on climate science says droughts, floods, heatwaves and other extreme weather are accelerating and wreaking increasing damage.

And they’re not all happening Somewhere Else.

Allowing global temperatures to increase by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, as looks likely on current trends in greenhouse gas emissions, would result in some “irreversible” impacts. These include the melting of ice caps and glaciers, and a cascading effect whereby wildfires, the die-off of trees, the drying of peatlands and the thawing of permafrost release additional carbon emissions, amplifying the warming further.

And that last item is a big unknown, because the scientists don’t have enough data yet.

The report says:

  • Everywhere is affected, with no inhabited region escaping dire impacts from rising temperatures and increasingly extreme weather.
  • About half the global population – between 3.3 billion and 3.6 billion people – live in areas “highly vulnerable” to climate change.
  • Millions of people face food and water shortages owing to climate change, even at current levels of heating.
  • Mass die-offs of species, from trees to corals, are already under way.
  • 1.5C above pre-industrial levels constitutes a “critical level” beyond which the impacts of the climate crisis accelerate strongly and some become irreversible.
  • Coastal areas around the globe, and small, low-lying islands, face inundation at temperature rises of more than 1.5C.
  • Key ecosystems are losing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide, turning them from carbon sinks to carbon sources.

And still we’re not really doing anything.

We’re just a primate species, just great apes who have developed some impressive talents, but it turns out those talents have empowered us to destroy our own and everyone else’s ecosystem, without empowering us to stop.

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