The UN warns that the climate crisis is accelerating and all its damages are getting worse

The climate crisis has already activated a cascading effect of accelerated damage that interconnects a warmer world with the destruction of nature and leads to the deterioration of human health and the lack of food for people. "The extent and magnitude of the impacts are greater than expected," says the latest UN scientific report. "They are coming on more quickly, they are more abrupt and widespread than we expected."

Climate change threatens to erase the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean from the coast

Climate change threatens to erase the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean from the coast

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Human-induced climate change has caused such a degree of disturbance in nature that it is affecting the lives of billions of people. More than 3,000 suffer from high fragility in the face of a mess never seen "in 10,000 years." "Human vulnerability and that of ecosystems are interdependent," summarizes Marta Rivera Ferre, researcher at INGENIO del Csic and the Polytechnic University of Valencia and co-author of the report.

A mess in ecosystems

Global warming has altered all the Earth's ecosystems: marine, terrestrial or freshwater, certify the 260 experts of the IPCC international panel in their report on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to the climate crisis that reviews the scientific evidence accumulated since 2014.

Human and ecosystem vulnerability are interdependent

Marta Rivera Ferre, researcher at the INGENIO of the Csic and the Polytechnic University of Valencia

Climate disruption has already caused "mass die-offs, population disappearances, and the first climate-related extinctions." A small Australian mouse, the Melomys rubicolahas had the sad celebrity of being the first documented mammal that has ceased to exist due to climate change.

  • Flee or die: "Temperature is a key element that determines the habitat of the species", explains Jofre Carnicer, researcher at CREAF who has participated in the report. Scientists have found that more than half of the world's species have had to move to the poles or to the high mountains due to excessive heat in their habitats. Varieties that already needed cold decline.
  • budding extinctions: In the oceans, entire populations have moved an average speed of 59 kilometers every decade due to warmer waters. The joint impacts of climate change have forced a reorganization of biodiversity in the last 50 years, especially in the seas, underlines this report. Species that cannot reorganize, that is, flee and adapt, are becoming extinct. In this sense, Carner warns that "if we do not stop warming by 1.5ºC, the extinction rate of species will go above 10%. Some losses are already irreversible", he abounds.

Animals and plants face dramatic conditions that have not been seen for at least 10,000 years.

IPCC report

  • Beyond adaptation: Climate change is drastically and progressively affecting the world's biodiversity. "The increase in temperatures, droughts, floods or heat waves are exposing animals and plants to dramatic conditions that have not been seen for at least 10,000 years. The increase already observed in their frequency and intensity are outstripping their ability to adapt," the IPCC report writes.
  • Spanish biodiversity: Mediterranean plants and animals are very susceptible to increased heat. Especially marine heat waves since in the Mediterranean Sea these migrations to the north cannot be carried out. to cooler waters. Among the victims mentioned are the Posidonia meadows on which a good portion of the coastal marine life develops.
  • Altered processes: in a forest, a wetland or the Mediterranean Sea, rising temperatures are altering the timing of natural processes. Blooms at the wrong time, trips of thousands of kilometers at the wrong time. Chain chaos. When animals come out of hibernation or begin migration early, they experience a decoupling from their seasonal food sources. Researchers have also witnessed a lack of synchrony with fish spawning or plankton bursts in the oceans on which marine species depend, as well as the availability of insects for breeding birds.

The IPCC states that "maintaining the health of the planet is essential for human health." And it calls for ecosystems to be conserved on approximately 30 to 50% of the Earth's surface, whether on land, in the ocean or in fresh water, to protect biodiversity and ensure the essential services they offer."

Worse nature is worse food

The degradation of nature is bad business for humans. Starting with the most basic: it makes it more difficult to eat and drink. These disruptions "reduce the possibility of growing food and providing water, thus affecting health and damaging human livelihoods," summarizes the IPCC.

  • Production drop: "A 5% drop in the production of corn, wheat and rice has already been observed. And a 21% drop in the net food production factor," says Marta Rivera, a veterinary doctor and an expert in animal production and agricultural economics. . Reduce the amount of food.
  • Not limited to agricultural countries: In Europe, the loss of crops due to drought has tripled in the last 50 years. "Food security is being put at risk. 10% of the current agricultural area will be inadequate in 2100," says Rivera. In the Mediterranean region, cereal productivity may fall by 17%.
  • Farmers, ranchers or fishermen, victims: the abundance of resources in different parts of the Earth is being affected by this crisis. This impact can have "very serious effects" on all these groups "that depend on natural resources."
  • Spain is not spared: the IPCC notes that agricultural areas will move north if sustained global warming continues. There will be less arable land in the country. The pests that affect crops find favorable conditions to expand if the temperature continues to rise. The work points, for example, to the wood beetle infesting northern Spain.
  • Lack of water: another aspect that Spain knows because it suffers from it. This research indicates that droughts cost the country some 1,500 million euros a year. And one of the studies that have supported the conclusions of the panel of experts indicates that long-term warming will increase the losses of Spanish agriculture by 250%

The calculation is that, more or less, half of the world's population currently suffers from this water shortage at some point in the year. "Each extra degree of global temperature translates into approximately 4% less rainfall in the Mediterranean region," explains Jofre Carnicer.

And in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula, especially vulnerable to lack of rainfall, the orchard of europe. That is, an intensive food factory that climate change puts at risk. "You have to weigh up whether crop irrigation is an appropriate strategy for this crisis or a counterproductive adaptation that, in the long run, brings worse consequences," Marta Rivera reflects.

The fall in water resources will greatly limit the possibility of maintaining irrigated crops in the Mediterranean area. It will not only entail economic loss rather, it will push farmers out of those farming areas.

Human habitats: cities

The climate crisis is going to find humans where they live. And most do it in the cities. From 2015 to 2020 the urban population grew by 397 million people.

  • Cocktail that multiplies the impacts: the cities represent a fertilized field to multiply the effects of warming in a "cascade effect". "Exposure to shocks such as heat waves, overheated urban islands and torrential rainfall are combined with rapid urbanization and lack of climate approaches," describes this multidisciplinary report.
  • The coast, even worse: The worst part, the experts explain, is carried by the coastal cities since "they are disproportionately affected", in the words of the IPCC. In Spain, almost half of the population lives on the coast. In the Mediterranean, 37% of the coastline is at low levels, a line vulnerable to rising sea levels and increasingly exacerbated coastal storms.

in the European region

Climate vulnerability and impacts are very different depending on which part of the world you look at. Europe is not the same as South America. Neither the Mediterranean area than Scandinavia.

  • Mortality and diseases: on Europe affects, above all, the increase in heat. Deaths from thermal excess will multiply by three if the world warms 3ºC instead of containing it at 1.5ºC. Furthermore, "there are limits to adapting both for people and for current health services," says the IPCC. Spain is one of the most threatened European countries, according to the evidence cited in the UN report. People who die from this extreme in the country could go from 1,500 to 8,000 in 2050 if emissions remain high.
  • Lack of water: It is one of the highlights for southeastern Europe. "More than a third of the population would be exposed to lack of water if it reaches an extra 2ºC."
  • Sea invasion: With current levels of greenhouse gas emission mitigation, "coastal flood damage is going to increase tenfold," says the report. Sea level represents "an existential threat to coastal populations and its cultural heritage", declare the UN scientists.

The INGENIO expert recalls that there are points of no return in the social impacts caused by the climate crisis. "If we pass these thresholds, there is no turning back. There are groups that cannot adapt any more, like the populations that must emigrate, leave." Rivera insists that "inaction against climate change is more costly than what it costs to act. In economic and non-economic terms, such as human lives."

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