…ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.
The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.
Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said.
What’s that mean for us? “If the world doesn’t do anything…the very social stability of human systems could be at stake,” Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the intergovernmental panel, said at a news conference announcing the report today.
Even if we take bold action—what the report characterizes as “high” adaptation—there’s medium or higher confidence that virtually ever corner of the globe will suffer widespread impacts by the end of the century. According to the report’s risk calculus, Europe fares the best. Virtually every other corner of the globe, including North America, will face “very high” risk of a breakdown in at least one critical component of the climate system—the availability of fresh water, or crop productivity, or coastal flooding due to sea level rise, to name three examples—by 2100, even with ambitious action taken. Without bold action, the risks increase even further.