Investing in climate change more urgent than ever

Acting to reduce climate change now will cost much less than the damage otherwise inflicted by climate change in the future, argue an internationally respected group of scientists.

Scientists from around the world published a new study last week in which they urgently call on world leaders to accelerate efforts to tackle climate change.

“Acting on climate change” said lead author, Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the ARC Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies at the University of Queensland in Australia “has a good return on investment when one considers the damages avoided by acting.”

The investment is even more compelling given the wealth of evidence that the impacts of climate change are happening faster and more extensively than projected, even just a few years ago. What’s more, climate threats are synergistic in nature. So while each risk may be small on its own, a small change in a number of risks can lead to large impacts, such as sea-level rise leading to higher water levels during storms, which in turn could exacerbate poverty when deprived areas are flooded.

According to the scientists, there are significant benefits from avoiding a temperature rise of 2C and aiming to restrict the increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial global temperatures.

“If such policy is not implemented, we will continue on the current upward trajectory of burning fossil fuels and continuing deforestation, which will expand the already large-scale degradation of ecosystems. To be honest, the overall picture is very grim unless we act,” said Professor Rachel Warren from the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

A recent report from the UN projected that as many as a million species may be at risk of extinction over the coming decades and centuries. Climate change is not the only factor but is one of the most important ones.

According to Professor Michael Taylor, Dean of Science at the University of the West Indies, climate change “is not an academic issue, it is a matter of life and death for people everywhere”, particularly those from small-island states and low-lying countries.

As the scientists conclude in their study, the case for rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions is more compelling and urgent than ever.

“Tackling climate change is a tall order. However, there is no alternative from the perspective of human well-being – and too much at stake not to act urgently on this issue,” said Hoegh-Guldberg.

Image credit: © UNICEF / Mukwazhi

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