Experts respond to UN climate change report


While minimizing the impacts of climate change is vital, adaptation to the changing climate is crucial for survival, according to a recent report released by the United Nations. 

The report said the increase of warmer temperatures “[increases] the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group III is about to release a third report about the growing impacts of climate change on Sunday. Working Group II released “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” on March 31 and Working Group I released its report in September 2013. 

Robin Leichenko, co-director of the Rutgers Climate Institute, worked with the IPCC, a scientific body tasked with assessing impacts of climate change by the United Nations, for the past three years. 

Leichenko served as a review editor of chapter 12 on human security of Working Group II’s report, which was released two weeks ago. 

Working Group II’s report focused on what climate change would mean for human and environmental ecosystems. The report tackles what climate change would mean for poverty, including if climate change would create mass migration, or political, civil or military conflict. 

“The answer is no,” she said. “Climate change in itself isn’t going to cause some kind of mass migration or some mass political conflict — we’re not seeing evidence for that. But we are seeing evidence where climate change could exacerbate things that do cause conflicts. Climate change could make poverty worse.”

Most of the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the climate system are irremovable, Leichenko said. Adaptation to the climate change that has been occurring for the past few decades is the only option to survive. 

“I really feel like the work we are doing is important in terms of the future of humanity. … Climate change can really make the world much more unstable — unstable socially and unstable economically,” Leichenko said. “I’m really doing this because I’m passionately committed to trying to find a way to address climate change.”

Leichenko’s role in Working Group II was to manage the process of the chapters being reviewed by external reviewers from various governments and advice from the community, which she believes is just as important as the actual writing of the chapter. 

In her time working for the IPCC, Leichenko traveled to Buenos Aires and Slovenia to attend meetings, which addressed the drafts and reviews from Working Group II. She said the people working on these topics were the best in the world.

David Robinson, the state climatologist, worked on the first report, which looked at the impacts of climate change. 

With each IPCC report, Robinson said the consensus is that climate change is occurring, and human beings are responsible for a major part of that change in recent decades. 

“There are natural influences on climate variations and climate change, but the evidence is overwhelming that in the last half century in particular, humans … are the cause of the major portion of the change,” he said. 

Robinson said the third report by Working Group III primarily focuses on the policy side of climate change. It deals with restrictions and incentives to improve the climate situation and how to stop the problem. 

Robinson’s research realm is snow, particularly in the distribution of snow cover across the globe, which he has been researching for the past 30 years. 

His research shows that during the spring, snow cover is melting sooner than in recent decades. The research identifies a potential human impact on the early spring snowmelt. 

He believes the impacts of climate change are only going to get worse, but there are ways to mitigate this change by reducing human influences on the environment and exploring means of alternative energy.

“There is a need to adapt to the changes that are going to occur, that are occurring, that we’re not going to be able to fully stop this situation,” he said. “The train has left the station — it’s not turning back, but we can certainly slow it down.”


Julian Chokkattu

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