Dangerous shifts are already underway. If fossil fuel use continues at this pace, the world will see sweeping consequences for nature and humans, report authors say.
BY SABRINA SHANKMAN , 25SEP19, InsideClimate News
“As the planet warms, diverse ecosystems—from mountain glaciers to the icy Arctic to the oceans—are already seeing dangerous effects from climate change. Future warming will threaten food supplies, force the migration of countless species and dramatically change the icy regions of the world. The changes are coming. How much is up to us, scientists warn in a new report released Wednesday by the United Nations.
“The changes are happening faster than many scientists expected to see, and they’re often intricately connected, with cascading effects that can ripple through ecosystems.
“As global temperatures rise, time is running out. The cryosphere—areas of the planet that are frozen—is shrinking as glaciers and sea ice melt, snowpack declines and permafrost thaws. At the same time, oceans have absorbed 90 percent of the excess heat and about a quarter of the carbon dioxide from human activities, leading to greater acidification that harms shellfish and corals and lowers oxygen levels in the water.
“The world’s oceans and cryosphere have been taking the heat for climate change for decades,” said Ko Barrett, vice chair of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which produced the report on climate change’s impact on the oceans and cryosphere. “The consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe.”
“Just how severe the impacts will become—whether sea level rise stops at 1 to 2 feet by 2100 or continues to rise as high as 3.5 feet; whether the planet sees 20 times more marine heat waves or 50 times more—depends on how, and how quickly, humanity responds to the crisis, the report found.
“The report brought together 104 scientists from 36 countries with a variety of expertise. As they reviewed the existing research, the diverse group found interconnections and a magnitude of change that hadn’t been as clear before…”
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