Dire climate change warning ‘is being ignored’ amid war and economic turmoil | Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Scientists fear their latest climate warnings will be ignored amid international unrest caused by war in Ukraine and soaring energy prices.
The third segment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s landmark science report – which may be the last comprehensive assessment of climate science to be released while there is still time to avert the worst ravages of the climate breakdown – will be released on Monday, warning that the world is not moving quickly enough towards a low-carbon economy.
But the previous installment of the extensive report – known as IPCC working group 2 – was published a month ago, just as Russia was invading Ukraine, and received only quiet attention, despite the warning of catastrophic and irreversible upheavals that can only be narrowly avoided by urgent action now. The scientists told the Observer that Monday’s new scientific warning should prompt governments to act late.
Deborah Brosnan, assistant professor of biology at Virginia Tech University in the United States and scientific consultant, told the Observer: “This [working group 2] report was widely expected, but completely ignored. Overshadowed mainly by the war in Ukraine and national issues such as inflation, most mainstream media barely reported let alone analyzed the results.
She said people were shocked by the war in Ukraine and concerned about soaring prices, but the climate crisis also needed urgent attention. “The war in Ukraine is a terrible tragedy unfolding before our eyes, and families rightly fear being pushed into poverty by inflation. Yet we seem blind to the fact that an even greater and existential crisis is already unfolding today – one that will result in a global humanitarian crisis and on a scale never seen before.
Daniela Schmidt, a professor at the University of Bristol and one of the lead authors of the Task Force 2 report, said the current global upheavals show how vulnerable we are to the impacts of the climate crisis, already being felt. Policymakers should consider where their resources are allocated, she advised. “Due to geopolitical challenges, little political capacity is devoted to climate action and vast funds are allocated to defence,” she told the Observer.
“[But] the current situation also clearly shows the widespread vulnerability of populations to climate change.
Governments have at least realized the problem behind the scenes, said Bob Ward, director of policy at the Grantham Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics.
“The IPCC report struggled to get attention. But while public debate may have been muted, governments around the world are now studying the details of the report, and in particular its findings on how to make countries, businesses and communities more resilient to the consequences of the climate change that cannot now be avoided,” says Ward.
The report, due out on Monday, will discuss ways in which governments and the public can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including increased use of renewable energy, growing trees and cutting-edge technologies to vacuum carbon from the air. But its warnings – that the world is failing to deploy these methods on the scale required to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – will be stifled by the bureaucracy of the IPCC processes.
The report itself – part three of the sixth comprehensive assessment of climate science to be published by the IPCC since its founding in 1988 – is based on thousands of scientific papers from the past seven years. But the key document released on Monday, the summary for policymakers, could be as short as 20 to 30 pages, consisting of a series of short messages and data.
These messages are the subject of intense disputes between scientists and governments. Under IPCC methods, all governments have the right to make changes to the final summary – and some exercise those rights by toning down conclusions and vetoing some of the strongest statements.
Saudi Arabia, India, China and a few other countries have sought to make changes that would weaken the latest warnings, Observer understand. Some governments are keen to avoid policy advice such as cutting fossil fuel subsidies, even though these are widely embraced by key authorities. refinement process – who was also a complaint in previous chapters of the IPCC assessment – is defended by some, as producing a document that all governments must “own”, since they have all contributed. But many scientists are growing increasingly frustrated because it produces a conservative and sometimes watered-down document that many say fails to reflect the urgency and shocking nature of the threat.