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'Irreversible' Damage to Planet From Climate Change Says Leaked IPCC Report

Climate

Climate change is here, man-made and already having dangerous impacts, according to leaked drafts of the upcoming UN climate science report.

The leaked IPCC report warns it is increasingly likely the world will shoot past this point, and that limiting warming to within this level would require dramatic and immediate cuts in carbon pollution.

The 127-page final draft of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows the effects of global warming are already being felt across all continents and the oceans.

It warns that further emission rises will increase the likelihood of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

The report will be a synthesis of the IPCC’s three comprehensive reports released in the past year, which examined the science of climate changeits impacts and potential mitigation options.

The report will be finalised after governments and scientists go over it line-by-line at a meeting in Copenhagen in October.

The leaked report, which has been circulated to several media outlets, shows temperatures have already increased by 0.85°C since 1880—a more rapid shift in the climate than that which heralded the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

The report mentions several impacts that could “already be considered dangerous” including extreme weather including heat waves, flooding and drought and rising sea levels.

It also raises the risk that climate change and its impacts could worsen violent conflicts and refugee problems, hinder efforts to grow more food and threaten public health.

Ocean acidification, which comes from the added carbon absorbed by the oceans, could also harm marine life, the draft warns.

“Climate change risks are likely to be high or very high by the end of the 21st century” without sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, it says.

It is hoped the new report will focus minds ahead of the global UN climate talks to take place in Lima, Peru in December, where governments are expected to lay the groundwork for the crucial Paris Summit in late 2015.

It is here where countries have agreed to finalise a new global treaty on climate change.

In 2009, countries had agreed to set a goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C—the international agreed danger threshold for climate change.

However, the leaked IPCC report warns it is increasingly likely the world will shoot past this point, and that limiting warming to within this level would require dramatic and immediate cuts in carbon pollution.

Without action to limit the levels of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, it warns temperatures could increase by 2°C by mid-century compared to 1986 to 2005.

But the end of the century, that scenario could bring temperatures that are 3.7°C warming, it warns.

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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.

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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."

The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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