UN climate report is an “atlas of human suffering”

Climate change driven by humans is already causing dangerous and widespread disruption, international scientists warned this morning.

Photo: Peter Nguyen/Unsplash, IPCC full report

The latest assessment of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) said there was a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.

The report, adopted by 195 governments, warns of mounting and increasingly irreversible losses of life, biodiversity and infrastructure.

Billions of people will be affected by climate change, despite efforts to reduce the risks, it said. The impacts are worse in cities, where half the world’s population live.

Ambitious, accelerated action is needed to adapt to climate change, along with rapid deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Hans-Otto Pörtner, a co-chair of working group 2 of the IPCC, said:

“The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”

“Damning indictment of failed climate leadership”

Antonio Guterres. Photo: IPCC news conference

The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, said he had seen nothing like the latest report:

“[It] is an atlas of human suffering and damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”

Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone now, he said. People were being “clobbered by climate change”.

“Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frogmarch to destruction now.

“The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal.”

Mr Guterres said:

“The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson on our only home.”

It was essential, he said, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees by cutting emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. But he said:

“according to current commitments, global emissions are set to increase almost 14 per cent over the current decade. That spells catastrophe. It will destroy any chance of keeping 1.5 alive.”

He said the IPCC report put oil and gas giants and their underwriters on notice:

“You cannot claim to be green while your plans and projects undermine the 2050 net-zero target and ignore the major emissions cuts that must occur this decade. People see through this smokescreen.”

Mr Guterres said fossil fuels were “choking humanity”. They were a “dead end” for the planet, people and economies. Continued reliance on them made the global economy and energy security vulnerable to geo-political shocks and crises. He said:

“Now is the time to accelerate the energy transition to a renewable energy future”.

“Need to go further and faster to clean power”

A UK government spokesperson said this morning:

“Today’s stark report from the IPCC is a reminder to the world about how climate change is affecting our planet, underlining that we need to go further and faster to adapt and generate more clean power to reduce countries’ exposure to expensive global gas prices, embracing the commitments of the Glasgow Climate Pact.”

Rachel Kennerley, international climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said:

“The time for reality checks is long gone: we have the answers and means to step back from the brink of climate catastrophe. It starts with an immediate end to the age of fossil fuels and ramping up the shift to renewable energy with the governmental support to see that crucial transition through.”

Key points

Connections between climate change, human society and ecosystems. Source: IPCC report

The IPCC said the world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5C. At this level, climate resilient development is already challenging.

But even temporary warming above 1.5C will result in additional severe and sometimes irreversible impacts, it said. Above 2C, climate resilient development becomes impossible.

The report’s 270 authors from 67 countries said heatwaves, droughts and floods are already causing food and water shortages for millions of people and the mass loss of some plants and animals.

3.3-3.6 billion people in the world live in areas that are already highly vulnerable to climate change.

Coastal areas and small low-lying islands face flooding if temperatures rise by more than 1.5C.

But no inhabited regions of the world will escape the effects of climate change.

Important ecosystems are losing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and are turning from carbon sinks to sources of carbon.

Adaptation efforts are happening across all sectors and regions, but the progress is unevenly distributed, as well as being fragmented, small scale and incremental.

There are gaps between current levels of adaptation and levels needed to respond to impacts and reduce risks.

The report says natural environments can reduce climate risks and improve people’s lives. Healthy ecosystems, for example, are more resilient to climate change and provide food and clean water and can absorb and store carbon.

Hans-Otto Pörtner, said:

“By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30 to 50 per cent of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store carbon, and we can accelerate progress towards sustainable development, but adequate finance and political support are essential.”

The report concludes that climate change interacts with unsustainable use of natural resources, growing urbanization, social inequalities, losses and damages from extreme events and a pandemic, jeopardizing future development.

Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the IPCC working group II said:

“tackling all these different challenges involves everyone – governments, the private sector, civil society – working together to prioritize risk reduction, as well as equity and justice, in decision-making and investment.”

The secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation, Petteri Tallas, said:

“Our atmosphere today is on steroids, doped with fossil fuels. This is already leading to stronger, longer and more frequent extreme weather events. Climate change induced disasters come with high human and economic impacts.”

The IPCC’s chair, Hoesung Lee, said:

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction. It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet.

“It emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.”

Inger Andersen, UNEP. Photo: IPCC news conference

Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme said:

“Climate change is not lurking around the corner waiting to pounce. It is already upon us, raining down blows on billions of people.

“We are in an emergency heading for disaster. We can’t keep taking these hits and treating the wounds. Soon those wounds will be too deep, too catastrophic to heal.

“We need to soften the blows by cutting greenhouse gas emissions …and by picking up our efforts to adapt to climate change which have been too weak for too long.”

“Stark reminder”

Mary Church, head of campaigns for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

“Following all the backslapping at COP26 this report is a stark reminder of the reality of the climate crisis and must serve as a wake up call to governments relying on vague 2050 net zero goals, pathways that overshoot 1.5oC and fantasy techno-fixes. With barely a decade left before we reach this critical threshold we urgently need to focus on the solutions we know are necessary including a rapid and just phase out of fossil fuels.

“Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Glasgow and worldwide last November demanding a response to the climate crisis that puts justice at the heart of domestic and international efforts, transforming our economic, energy, and food systems and putting people and nature over profit.”

This is the second part of the latest IPCC assessment report, based on five years of work and review of 34,000 scientific papers.

The first part, published in August 2021, concluded that climate change was “unequivocally caused by human actions”. Dr Guterres described that report as a “code red for humanity”.

The third part on cutting greenhouse gas emissions is due in April 2022. A final part in October will summarise lessons for governments.

In-depth Q&A on the report from Carbon Brief

16 replies »

  1. We the plebs can look forward to ‘climate emergency’ lockdowns, including restrictions on domestic travel. The real agenda of the misanthropic and apocalyptic messaging from the globalists is to enforce the Agenda 2030 dictatorship. However, one thing that millions of people throughout the world are now waking up to, following the ‘Covid’ scamdemic, is not to put their trust in politically-based, politically-biased, mathematical models. Given that short-term weather forecasting (from the UK Met Office etc) leaves a lot to be desired in terms of accuracy, why on earth would anyone trust long-term climate forecasting?

  2. Well, FOE want a phasing out and an immediate end to fossil fuel. They can’t even give a consistent message from the same organisation.

    One day there may be a coherent message, but with friends like that, I would suggest use your own common sense.

    The biodiversity bit is welcome. Don’t kill off the golden goose just yet, otherwise many will go hungry. Mind you, golden geese may themselves have to go hungry as the grain is converted into fuel for vehicles. How is that going? Very badly.

  3. Re #IPCCReport

    5-10 page overviews on how to achieve
    Zero Carbon and Sustainable BioDiversity ASAP

    1000s of positive tipping point organizations and institutions

    = clearinghouse website
    = inform surveys of key local leaders
    = many Community ReVisionings



    Brainstorming Zero Carbon ASAP

    Positive tipping point organizations and institutions =
    a) making significant contributions in their fields (especially Climate Mitigation and Sustainable
    Biodiversity, but also many other fields)
    b) well known in their fields for the integrity and reliability of their work
    c) critical to gaining positive momentum at this auspicious moment in the history of life on Earth.

    The Brainstorming Zero Carbon ASAP Project advocates for seeking 5-10p overviews on how to
    achieve Zero Carbon ASAP (in their specific field)–and also how their field of activity can contribute
    to resolving other critical challenges–from thousands of positive tipping point organizations
    and institutions.

    A well-organized clearinghouse of such 5-10 page overviews can serve as input for
    surveys of key local leaders (on local specific challenges and solutions), the results of which can be
    made accessible to local residents in many ways–and lead to local stakeholder engagement and
    collaborative problem solving, using online engagement with features such as described at ).

    The Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability (CPCS) Initiative at

  4. The IPCC report published on the same day that China revealed it had recorded its biggest increase in total energy consumption and coal use in a decade during 2021.

    Perhaps some of those £billions being spent on the UK trying to remove 1% of the World’s man made CO2 to reach net zero, would be better spent on adaptation and protection measures?

  5. The arguments of the climate science deniers are tired and empty. Their selective use of statistics and information to deceive does not stand up to scrutiny.

    It is no good trying to cherry pick, the fact is the world’s temperature is rising and climate breakdown has already begun.

    Cumulative carbon emissions matter as does emissions per capita but statistically a country’s rankings can look better or worse depending on which data you view. But the outcome does not change, all nations need to reduce emissions.

    There is no use pointing a finger at one nation as though that somehow gives another country justification not to reduce emissions or slow down reduction.

    Furthermore, the reality is that China has adopted a pathway to becoming carbon neutral by 2060. Should China do more? Absolutely, but so should the US and the rest of the world too.

    Even the fossil fuel industry’s own scientists knew and warned their employers that fossil fuel use was causing global warming decades ago. But the science was suppressed and a coordinated campaign was instigated to play down the impacts and obscure the facts.

    Not surprising from an industry with the track record of adding lead to petrol whilst fully aware of the harm it caused and particularly to children, when safe alternatives were available.

    “Other safer performance-boosting additives in wide use today, among them ethanol, were known to the industry before the lead additive was discovered and patented. These alternatives were “denied, then fought, suppressed and unfairly maligned for decades” to preserve the lucrative monopoly of leaded petrol. In other words there was no money to be made adding a safe additive to stop engines knocking if the product in the petrol could not be patented.”

    • KatT, there’s no problem with the UK aiming to reach net zero. The problems possibly arise if we take on too large a financial burden getting there and then are faced with the additional costs of adaptation, because those responsible for much larger carbon emissions around the world haven’t followed our example.

      Ethanol is not a performance-boosting addictive. It contains less energy than petrol, is hygroscopic (absorbs water) leading to contamination, separates readily from other fuels during storage and is highly corrosive to plastic, rubber and aluminium.

      The Russian-Ukraine war could highlight the weaknesses of manufacturing Ethanol biofuels from crops, if there’s an interruption to the 12% world exports of wheat, 18% barley, 19% rapeseed and 16% corn expected from the Ukraine this year.

      • John Harrison, as your probably well aware,

        We as an island could easily be Carbon Net Zero!, but we are hugely densely populated in the south, and low populated north!
        The majority of the UK’s wind potential (over 25% of European’s wind potential) is on North West of Scotland! Not where the highest population is… as you quite rightly put it Net Zero is going to be very expensive for the UK and the financial burden is huge, How?, maybe phil c, 1720 and katT could elaborate using their extensive knowledge, 1) how we are going to afford it, 2) if we are dead set on looking to achieving Net Zero then the good that is achieved from the UK is then annihilated buy those countries, being US, China, India!

        • Eli, the government has set out the pathway to Net Zero and state it will be less than 1% of GDP over 30 years. Perhaps you need to take your expertise to the experts!

          And as for wind power, I don’t understand your comment. Firstly a huge amount of wind power comes from the North Sea off the English coast. And surely with investment in infrastructure electricity produced by wind power can be directed anywhere in the U.K. As we already receive electricity from Europe.

      • John, what cost burden do you think we face with catastrophic climate breakdown? Economic global consensus is that it will dwarf the cost of Net Zero on every level imaginable. We now only have a short time frame to limit global temperature. In addition the annual cost of Net Zero over 30 years, is less than the U.K. annual spend on defence which is 2% of GDP. This is something the CCC and economists continue to point out.

        Many of those currently claiming we can’t afford Net Zero were not vocal opponents when it was adopted in 2019. But now because of the high price in global gas prices they use this situation to now attack Net Zero. And Net Zero and renewables are not the cause of high global gas prices. Many of those questioning whether we can afford Net Zero are members of climate change denying organisations.

        As for ethanol, petroleum engineers working for the industry at the time knew that it would stop engines from knocking but chose lead so they could patent the design to make money. They were prepared to harm human health for profit and suppressed facts and science to achieve this. This is historic fact and can easily be researched and is detailed in the link I included. It is nothing to with energy content or wheat production.

        • KatT, the government maybe committed to reaching net zero by 2050 but it has yet to set out a plan for how to get there, or who and how it will be paid for. Treasury assessments of the cost have been very short on details.

          Net zero targets now cover two thirds of the global economy, but need to cover all the global economy and be achieved to be effective. If this doesn’t occur the UK will still be faced with the cost of adaptation whether we have achieved net zero or not.

          Tetraethyl lead was the preferred choice as the additive over aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzene and alcohols such as ethanol at that time due to its lower production cost.

          As for wheat, it has everything to do with ethanol production in the UK and also a major role alongside corn, sugar beet and palm oil in Europe. Ethanol production elsewhere relies mainly on corn, sugarcane and soybeans.

  6. There it is then. Those who talk about some using incorrect and selective data-and then doing it themselves!

    I can talk/post from personal experience with regard to grain being processed for vehicle fuel. Initially, in UK it was what was happening in USA. There maize was being grown for that purpose-now found to be 24% more carbon intensive than gasoline production. (I have previously supplied that reference.) What impact did that have regarding the UK? Well, all serious animal nutritionists in UK would look at the plantings of maize in USA increasing that would show a reduction in planting of soya, which is the major protein used in animal feed and then know soya prices would rise, cost of producing animal protein in UK would rise and the consumer would pay.

    Following that, there was this idea the same could be done with wheat grown in UK. I calculated the plans for production. Basically, they added up to the total wheat that would be exported from UK after a bumper harvest. All good when a bumper harvest is achieved, not so good when it is not. So, what now happens is that wheat is processed, ethanol produced, and the cost of wheat based foods increase and the consumer pays. E10 petrol is produced. It gives lower miles per gallon, and the consumer pays. And that is all without the issues regarding crop yields and areas available for cereal growing going forward if biodiversity is addressed.

    And, no KatT, I am no denier. Climate change is real and happening. However, the so called solutions that are being proposed are full of holes and the costings are nonsense, eg. how on earth can there be any true costing when the cost of new nuclear is not known, or if it is, it is not declared. Lagoon tidal has been suggested. Again no proper costing and who would pay. There is no timescale regarding the withdrawal of current subsidies applied to renewables, that consumers are currently paying within their energy bills, there is no indication as to how fuel duty will be replaced. That alone is £20-£30 billion per year Add that to an already premium priced product ie. EVs and motorists will be horrified. So, nothing is declared.

    Sorry KatT, as such examples come out of the woodwork, people will not be satisfied with “the alternative is Armageddon”. That argument is no argument. It simply is a lazy option, indicating a reluctance to address the issue. People can already see umpteen examples where their money has been wasted on poor projects that were supposed to help save the planet, (eg. Cash for Ash) ,fell flat on their face, just to be replaced by another.

    • Martin, I’m not sure why you drag the conversation to wheat prices and E10 petrol? Certainly not relevant to the point I was making, my point being how the industry added it knowing it was harmful and then downplayed the impacts and disputed the science and facts ie just as they have with climate change.

      I have not accused you of being a climate change denier. And whilst I often disagree with your point of view I do respect it.

      I agree some energy schemes have been ill thought through or failed but that has usually been the fault of individuals and government, not necessarily technology. And there have been huge successes like offshore wind and solar.

      But we must keep in mind that globally we are working to replace long established fossil fuel infrastructure and technology. Some of the green technologies are cutting edge and no doubt will improve as they mature and will become cheaper, as this has been the case with other technologies that we now take for granted and all use frequently today. But I believe we must progress because the alternative is to allow our climate to breakdown.

      Incidentally the average 15% subsidy across duel fuel bills has helped suppress costs (see second link) and obviously we need these technologies to limit climate change. Whether the subsidies should be on bills or met through tax or other means I believe is a valid point. After all fossil fuels receive subsidies too (see last two links)

      Some claim we cannot afford Net Zero. I have provided links to official docs in my earlier posts that set out how the cost of Net Zero is to be met.

      And so I genuinely ask what is the alternative if people believe we cannot afford Net Zero?

      I have found some data on the negative impact to GPD if we do not contain global temperatures (first link)

      Click to access swiss-re-institute-expertise-publication-economics-of-climate-change.pdf

      • KatT, by now the UK should have a clear and concise plan as to how net zero is to be achieved. It does not. It certainly has no plan that has been agreed by the population. Why not? People are being asked to change their whole lifestyle based upon what? Someone else has made the decision for them. If there is such a straightforward switch why has it not been clarified to those who are being asked? Except, they are not. They are being told. And they have every right to start asking, how much is it going to cost me and will it work. They are bright enough to know that removing a subsidy from their energy bills will be replaced by a tax ie. another bill.

        Sorry, your argument about fossil fuel subsidy is desperate stuff. Fossil fuel subsidies claimed for the UK are basically the following: Incentives to promote local production. Red diesel subsidy to promote cheaper food. Cap on vehicle fuel duty to assist costs of motoring, especially for rural areas (even though still higher than many other countries) and a 5% VAT on domestic fuel instead of 20%. Not to mention winter fuel allowances for pensioners or their bus passes! So, KatT, if you wish to get rid of those subsidies I would ask who is going to pay for that? More transport emissions from imports, dearer food, people stuck in rural areas unable to socialize, even higher domestic energy bills, OAPs freezing in the winter and can’t afford to get a bus to the GPs! That is what the people would pay. Alternatively they would have to pay for the dearer alternatives, as and when they are tried and tested, although they can see many have been false dawns. What and how will they have to pay???

        Yet, net zero is decided. There has been no referendum on the subject, so voters will vote accordingly as reality dawns. It will become apparent over time how the “we’s” do, but I suspect badly. I suggest a future Armageddon argument is toned down. There are many who are realizing currently that could all be academic.

  7. John, the link below provides quite a lot of detail on Net Zero costs. Whether or not you agree with it is of course your prerogative But I ask again, what is the cost of not achieving Net Zero to limit global temperatures that will cause catastrophic climate breakdown? The window of time to act is limited and decreasing. We cannot afford not to act. And does the U.K. want to be at the forefront of this inevitable change developing new technologies and expertise or playing catch-up?

    Had we reduced emissions sooner and not rolled back on investment, research and energy efficiency measures costs would have been spread over a longer period of time. But successive governments have kicked the can down the road and been happy to get rid of the “green c**p”. The trouble is we have now run out of road.

    As for the lead in petrol the point I am making and it is historically and factually correct is that the fossil fuel industry had alternatives to lead but knowing full well back in the 1920s that lead was toxic and was extremely harmful to health went ahead regardless. And it then proceeded to play down the harms, dispute the science and the facts, Just as it has with climate change.

    And I am not disputing what you say about wheat only that it was irrelevant in the context to the point I was making.

    • KatT, first paragraph of your link – “The government is committed to the target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 but it has yet to set out a plan for how to get there, or how to pay for it. Working out a fair way to distribute the costs will be among the most important determinants of a successful transition”

      The recently released Treasury assessment of the economic implications of net zero lacked detail on who will pay, offered only vague hints about tax strategy and failed to spell out how holes created in public finances by actions such as the switch over to EVs, would be plugged.

      In the real world, that’s not the approach people are looking for when they are not only facing a climate crisis but also a cost of living crisis.

      The questions now being asked are, in the face of reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions (by 51% in last 30 years) and rising greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere in the world, what would be more beneficial and cost effective for people living here in the UK, funding net zero policies or funding climate change adaptation measures?

  8. Ahh wheat is irrelevant. Usual avoidance of an important issue. It is not irrelevant to people living in Yemen, KatT. Where is the wheat coming from to help those in desperate need and prevent starvation? Not from the UK, as it is being turned into ethanol. And, probably not from the Ukraine. And, then there is population growth. More mouths to feed. With what?

    There does seem to be an awful lot of collateral damage ie. deaths within your dogma.

    And, no, there has been and there is massive investment into renewables. Successive Governments have done nothing of the sort you claim. Previous Governments, for example, have assured landowners of over £100k net profit per wind turbine per year, whether the energy was required or not. Now, Government has found the same turbines would have been better off in the sea, and the consumer is being asked to fund that U turn. A temporary drilling rig industrializes the countryside but hundreds of monsters sticking up hundreds of feet in the air do not, is just more nonsense.

    What is awaited is a positive result of how replacements will all work as replacement of fossil fuel. So far, there are many gaps. Your argument of just more investment will fill those gaps is nonsensical, and is certainly not confirmed by recent history. The “with what” question will need to be answered and so called answers that then fall flat are no solution. I suspect the biggest gap will be filled by nuclear in respect of UK. So, where are the costs and where is the new plan to deal with nuclear waste? I do note there are nuclear subs. in UK that are awaiting scrapping as that issue has not been solved currently.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s