Rising seas major threat to European coastal towns according to IPCC
Rising sea levels threaten European coastal towns, their inhabitants, and their cultural heritage. There will definitely be an "existential threat" in the next century, warned the United Nations' climate panel IPCC in a new report on Monday. As the earth warms further, the risks of flooding from the sea and rivers increase. Flood damage to Europe's coasts could increase tenfold by the end of this century, the scientists estimate.
For a coastal country like the Netherlands, this is one of the most critical warnings from Monday's report. Southern European countries will be particularly affected by heat and drought. Agriculture there will face "substantial" losses over the century. According to the IPCC report, if the planet warms by 2 degrees Celsius, over a third of the southern European population will have to deal with water scarcity.
Heat also increases the risk of forest fires and disrupts ecosystems. If global warming continues unchecked and rises above 3 degrees compared to pre-industrial times, the number of European deaths from heat stress will skyrocket. According to the report, then two to three times as many people will die from heat stress compared to the scenario in which global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees.
World leaders emphasized once again at the previous climate summit in Glasgow in November that 1.5 degrees Celsius must not be exceeded. To achieve this, greenhouse gas emissions will have to fall quickly and sharply, the IPCC warned in numerous previous reports. The plans countries have made so far are by no means sufficient. One of the promises countries made in Glasgo is that before the next summit, in Egypt at the end of this year, they will align their ambitions with "1.5 degrees."
The IPCC consists of hundreds of climate experts from dozens of countries. The panel's reports reflect the state of climate science. In this latest report, the scientists established that the current 1.1. degrees warming is already affecting Europe's nature and population. Heatwaves and droughts are now more common than in the past.
The IPCC made an overview of the most important threats for every region in the world. These are generally more severe with 2 degrees warming than 1.5 degrees, the climate panel repeated.
"Inequality is at the heart of the current climate crisis," said climate expert Bertram Zagema of the development cooperation organization Oxfam Novib in response to the IPCC report. The IPCC said that especially vulnerable people and areas, like parts of Africa, South Asia, Central America, South America, the Arctic, and small island states, are hit hardest by climate change. Between 2010 and 2020, about 15 times more people died from climate-related disasters in those regions as in less vulnerable countries, the IPCC said.
"People living in the worst affected countries don't need this report to tell them that the climate has changed," said Zagema. "The highest price is already being paid by the rancher in Somalia whose entire herd has died due to extreme drought." Developing countries have been asking for more help for years. During the climate summit in Glasgow, world leaders decided to increase this funding, but not enough. "Rich countries are largely responsible for the climate crisis and must do more to financially support poorer countries."
The anti-poverty organization CARE International also believes that the IPCC report shows that rich countries should take action. "Big emitters and rich countries can no longer look the other way," said Marlene Achoki of CARE International. She said the report "painfully shows that the most vulnerable countries and people need more help to meet the challenges of climate change."
The latest IPCC report "provides the most serious warning yet," the World Wildlife Fund said on Monday. World leaders must "take the gravity of the situation seriously and deliver on their climate promises," the organization said. According to the WWF, it is clear that the current measures are not enough. "Heatwaves above the Arctic Circle, forest fires in Siberia, floods in Limburg. It provides insight into what a warmer world entails for people and nature," said Merijn Hougee, a climate expert at WWF-NL.
Greenpeace agreed with the WWF-NL call for more and rapid action to turn the tide. "If we take action now, we can still prevent it from getting much worse," said Dewi Zloch, a climate and energy expert at Greenpeace Netherlands. Governments worldwide are not adapting, even though they promised to do so, the environmental organization said. "We need leaders who not only make plans based on science but actually execute them too. Now is the time to think big, show guts, and unite."
Reporting by ANP