Climate Change and Everything Else

The long awaited report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has hit the presses. It’s “concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.”  But it gets worse! The report also emphasized that food levels are diminishing, particularly in poor countries.

Here are some facts and figures, from Climosphere.

By 2050,climate change could increase number of undernourished kids in Africa to 52 million

In the Mediterranean, invasive species will replace native ones by nearly 25% in 20 years.

Warmer temperatures mean more habitat for mosquitoes. The spread of dengue fever has meant economic losses of $2.1 billion over the past 25 years.

Precipitation in Mexico is projected to decline by up to 30% by 2040.

In many ways, the report does not tell us what we don’t already know: the climate is on an unsustainable path. But this report shows precisely how interrelated climate is to a host of other issues that are pressing on the global agenda. Take, for example, the section human security:

Climate change over the 21st century is projected to increase displacement of people (medium evidence, high agreement). Displacement risk increases when populations that lack the  resources for planned migration experience higher exposure to extreme weather events, in both  rural and urban areas, particularly in developing countries with low income. Expanding  opportunities for mobility can reduce vulnerability for such populations. Changes in migration  patterns can be responses to both extreme weather events and longer-term climate variability and  change, and migration can also be an effective adaptation strategy. There is low confidence in  quantitative projections of changes in mobility, due to its complex, multi-causal nature.

Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and  inter-group violence by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as  poverty and economic shocks (medium confidence). Multiple lines of evidence relate climate  variability to these forms of conflict.

The impacts of climate change on the critical infrastructure and territorial integrity of  many states are expected to influence national security policies (medium evidence, medium confidence)

Climate change is the thread that weaves through issues like human security, conflict, water scarcity, development and health. To solve these issues requires progress on climate.  This report should serve as ammunition to policy makers this september as they gather in New York for the latest round of climate talks. At the very least it provides evidence that climate change connects pretty much every global challenge that confronts the United Nations and the majority of its member states.