A leaked report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has foreshadowed what the world will look like if more is not done to minimise greenhouse gas emissions – and it’s terrifying. So terrifying that the report warns that these destructive changes are set to unleash ‘misery on a global scale’.

The draft report, which was leaked to the French news agency AFP, showcased how damage caused by ‘superstorms’ and rising sea levels could increase hundred-fold with up to 280 million people displaced across the globe. The report detailed the impact climate change will have including declining fish stock and melting sea ice and glaciers.

Rising sea levels, caused by global warming, isn’t anything new. However, what is new is the magnitude of disruption, chaos and possible death it will have on ecosystems and coastal habitats. According to the study, unless there are substantial cuts to man-made greenhouse gas emissions then ultimately 30% of the northern hemisphere’s surface permafrost could melt within the next 80 years. If that was to happen, the permafrost could release gases far more dangerous than carbon such as nitrous oxide or methane which will only accelerate global warming.

And it doesn’t end there. If change isn’t administered quickly and efficiently, there are risks of many low-lying megacities and small island nations suffering some ‘extreme sea level events’ every year. Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is already sinking 6.7 inches per year. In August 2019, the Government shockingly announced that it would be relocating its capital to Kalimantan and billions would be spent trying to stop Jakarta from sinking within the next decade. Venice isn’t faring any better, the popular tourist destination is sinking around 0.08 inches per year. Studies have gone as far as to say that if the rate of global warming doesn’t slow down, Venice could be underwater by 2100. Either way, the Earth is heading down a fatal path. Even if we managed to cap global warming at 2C degrees, the rise of the global ocean waterline will nonetheless leave around a quarter of a billion people displaced.  

Future Policies?

The latest IPCC report focuses on the oceans and the Earth’s frozen zones. While the draft may not be the final copy, the conclusive report will be released in late September following the IPCC meeting in Monaco. Two days prior to this, the UN Climate Change Summit will converge to discuss climate action amongst some of the world’s leaders.

However, it cannot go unnoticed that some of the biggest nations seem to also be the most hesitant in the fight against climate change – with some even dismissing the catastrophe altogether. In 2017, under the Trump administration, the United States announced that it would be pulling out of the Paris Agreement. During President Trump’s tenure, there have been little calls to action, in fact recently Trump decided to roll back pollution regulations to eliminate “unnecessary and duplicative regulatory burdens from the oil and gas industry.” Without these regulations in place, there won’t be any protection against any methane leaks from oil and gas drilling operations.

Not too far from America’s position is Brazil where the Amazon rainforest is suffering from uncontrollable fires for weeks, incited by loggers and farmers eager to make profit. Other than releasing toxic gases into the atmosphere, the fires are damaging a critical natural habitat for mitigating climate change. The Amazon is commonly referred to as the ‘lungs of the world’ as it produces 20% of global oxygen. The fires drew international criticism which President Jair Bolsonaro denounced as “colonialism”. Instead, the President – who has continuously spoken about exploiting the rainforest’s economic potential – has placed the blame on NGOs and even briefly rejected millions in aid.

The IPCC report will be the fourth in a series analysing the effects of climate change on various sectors. With each report, more bad news follows, and still little is done to remedy the problem. Studies have repeated time and time again that without transformative change, all the horrors we’ve read about will eventually become inevitable – how many reports will it take until serious action is taken?

Aisha Mohamed