In the hotter and more hellish world humans are creating, parts of the planet could become unbearable in the not-so-distant future, a panel of the world’s foremost scientists warned on last April in an exhaustive report on the escalating toll of climate change. Unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will raise sea levels several feet, swallowing small island nations and overwhelming even the world’s wealthiest coastal regions. Drought, heat, hunger and disaster may force millions of people from their homes. Coral reefs could vanish, along with a growing number of animal species. Disease-carrying insects would proliferate. Deaths from malnutrition, extreme heat, pollution will surge.
These are some of the grim projections detailed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body dedicated to providing policymakers with regular assessments of the warming world. Drawing on thousands of academic studies from around the globe, the sweeping analysis finds that climate change is already causing “dangerous and widespread disruption” to the natural world, as well as billions of people around the planet. Failure to curb pollution from fossil fuels and other human activities, it says, will condemn the world to a future that is both universally dangerous and deeply unequal. Low-income countries, which generate only a tiny fraction of global emissions, will experience the vast majority of deaths and displacement from the worst-case warming scenarios, the IPCC warns. Yet these nations have the least capacity to adapt — a disparity that extends to even the basic research needed to understand looming risks.