Our planet is facing a dire future, even under optimistic scenarios of restrained C02 emissions, reveals The New York Times and the Associated Press, after a leaked draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report came out last Friday.
As I have written previously, the IPCC is slowly rolling out its report on the perilous state of the global climate. In September, it released its conclusions about the state of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change (spoiler: it’s happening). The leaked draft discussing impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, is not due to be formally released until March 2014.
While the specific impacts of climate change will vary across different regions, potential extinction of species, flooding of urban areas, droughts targeting essential agriculture and the potential for increased human conflict were identified.
While these effects will be felt worldwide, the leaked draft makes clear that the global poor, in both the developing and developed world, will be hardest hit:
“Climate-related hazards constitute an additional burden to people living in poverty, acting as a threat multiplier often with negative outcomes for livelihoods.”
For the global poor, climate change threatens livelihoods across a variety of human systems. For one, it exacerbates food insecurity. A 1°C increase in average temperatures, the draft concludes, will reduce median crop yields by up to 2 percent each decade for the rest of the century, even as demand is expected to increase by 14 percent. Anticipated crop price increases, the draft continues, would have disproportionate negative impact on low-income households, who spend higher proportions of their income on food.
Poor populations in urban areas will likewise be hard-hit, as the risks from variability in water supply (as well as extreme climate events in general) will be “amplified for those lacking essential infrastructure and services or living in exposed areas.”
Both rural and urban areas are likely to experience degraded performance in important public health indicators: the same climate-induced price shocks that affect livelihoods will also make it more difficult to meet minimum nutritional requirements.
Overall, the IPCC sees a direct link between advancing climate change and worsening poverty:
“Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will slow down economic growth and poverty reduction, further erode food security, and trigger new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger.”
The adaptation solutions discussed in the leaked summary deserve serious attention and point to one of the greatest deficiencies in current approaches. The IPCC also notes that many governments, from local municipalities up to national leadership, have begun to pursue adaptation strategies, from expanding insurance programs to hardening infrastructure.
The problem, however, is that current funding and investment is inadequate for probable future needs. While the IPCC cautions their estimates are preliminary given the paucity of data, their survey of the research suggests global adaptation costs could run up to $100 billion per year in the developing world. Finding the money to meet those needs will be incredibly difficult, even for economic success stories like India and China. For the developed world, too, the idea of pricing carbon to fund adaptation still meets heavy resistance, despite research demonstrating the revenue possibilities.
Squaring this circle will be among the challenges faced by representatives of the Conference of Parties for the yearly conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change next week in Warsaw, Poland (see Politico’s breakdown of what to expect from this round of talks).
Among the agenda items are discussions of climate finance, and one can expect a debate over what the developed world may owe to the developing world in order to assist it in growing its economies in an ecologically sound way.
As the IPCC draft report makes clear, finding agreement on that point will only be the first step in preparing the world for the difficulties of a warming planet.