According to a newly released report by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), catastrophic superstorms combined with rising sea levels could result in hundreds of millions of people from coastlines around the world to be displaced. The findings represent a “special report” on the Earth’s frozen zones, or cryosphere.
A draft of the report obtained by French news agency AFP, foretells a scenario in which the world’s warming oceans are “poised to unleash misery on a global scale.” The report warns that unless serious cuts to man-made greenhouse emissions are made, an estimated one third to 99 percent of the northern hemisphere’s surface permafrost could melt within 30 years, which would unleash what would be equivalent to a carbon bomb into the atmosphere.
Warming oceans and rising sea levels could potentially displace approximately 280 million people, the document states. This is the fourth report released in the last year warning of the damage that would result from a rapidly warming climate. The first three reports focused on the effects of the changing climate on biodiversity, forest management and food, while the most recent report focuses on the global impact the climate crises has on population centers around the world, specifically those living near coastal regions.
While many G-7 countries have been making an effort to combat the climate crises, the United States, under Donald Trump’s leadership, has exited the existing Paris agreement on climate change that his predecessor, President Obama signed on to. Additionally, the Trump administration has undone many other major environmental regulations including weakening methane regulation, freezing fuel efficiency standards, and eliminating the clean power plan— to name a few. This brings the total of major climate changes rules reversed by this administration to 84, according to the New York Times.
China, despite relaxing air pollution controls, has been making steady progress with regards to engineering renewable technologies; and India, while rapidly developing solar power, is also, like China, building up it’s coal-fired capacity simultaneously.
Michael Mann, the director of Earth System Science Centre at Pennsylvania State University, cited natural diesters such as the effects from Hurricane Katrina, in making his point to the AFP that humanity would simply not be able to engineer its way out of a crisis.
The projections from the latest report have been substantiated by other recent reports outlining the anomalies we have already been witnessing with regard to global warming. A report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released in July 2019 found that June 2019 was the hottest month on record globally in the 140 year record, with an average land surface temperature of 2.41 degrees Fahrenheit above average. The report noted that in the best case “rapid action” scenario future global average warming would be limited to 3.6 degrees above average, which is what is prescribed by the Paris agreement. Even so, our global leaders’ decisions to neglect the climate crisis has already resulted in irreversible damage.
By 2050, under the most optimistic scenario, many low lying megacities and small island nations will experience extreme sea level events every year, and even if the world manages to cap global warming at 2 degrees Celsius, the global ocean waterline will rise enough to displace a quarter of a billion people, the report concluded.
Ben Strauss, CEO and chief scientist of Climate Central, a US based research group, noted “when you consider the political instability that has been triggered by relatively small levels of migration today, I shudder to think of the future world when tens of millions of people are moving because the ocean is eating their land.”
Locally, this comes on the heels of New Orleans witnessing record temperatures with heat index values reaching up to 111 degrees. This came close to tying historical records 1998. The city has seen an increase in heat advisories in recent years, warning of heat exhaustion and stroke. In addition to rising temperatures, the city has seen an increase in the intensity of recent flooding.
The final version of the most recent IPCC’s special report on climate change is expected to be published on September 25, 2019.
Scott Ploof is the Publisher and Founder of Big Easy Magazine