Vulnerability hotspots – areas with the highest susceptibility to being adversely affected by climate-driven hazards – are home to 1.6 billion people, a number projected to double by 2050, a new report has said.
The report, 10 New Insights in Climate Science 2022 brought out by Future Earth, The Earth League and WCRP, identifies vulnerability hotspots in Central America, the Sahel, Central and East Africa, the Middle East, and across the breadth of Asia.
The potential to adapt to climate change is not limitless: people and ecosystems in different places across the world are already confronted with limits to adaptation, and if the planet warms beyond 1.5°C or even 2°C, more widespread breaching of adaptation limits is expected. Hence, adaptation efforts cannot substitute for ambitious mitigation, it says.
Climate change is adversely impacting the health of humans, animals and entire ecosystems. Heat-related mortality, wildfires affecting our physical and mental health, and growing risks of outbreaks of infectious diseases are all linked to climate change.
The rising frequency and intensity of extreme weather events related to climate change, as well as its slow-onset impacts, will increasingly drive involuntary migration and displacement. These impacts can also render many people unable to adapt by moving out of harm’s way. Hence, anticipatory approaches to assist climate-related mobility and minimise displacement are essential in the face of climate change, the report says.
Climate change exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in human security (caused by governance and socioeconomic conditions), which can lead to violent conflict. Effective and timely mitigation and adaptation strategies are required to strengthen human security and, by extension, national security. These must be pursued in parallel with concerted efforts to provide for human security to reduce the risks of increasing violent conflict and promote peace.
The report stresses that sustainable land use is essential to meeting climate targets. Enhancing yields via sustainable agricultural intensification with integrated land management should replace further expansion into natural areas, providing climate solutions, food security and ecosystem integrity. However, as the planet continues to warm, those land system co-benefits are less likely to hold.
It points out that private sustainable finance practices are failing to catalyse deep transitions. “Sustainable finance” practices in the private sector are not yet catalysing the profound economic transformations needed to meet climate targets. This reflects the fact that these are mostly designed to fit into the financial sector’s existing business models, rather than to substantially shift the allocation of capital towards meaningful mitigation.
Losses and damages are already widespread and will increase significantly on current trajectories, making it imperative to advance a coordinated global policy response. Deep and swift mitigation and effective adaptation are necessary to avert and minimise future economic and non-economic losses and damages.
It says that inclusive decision-making for climate-resilient development is needed. Decentralising and coordinated decision-making across scales and contexts, while prioritising empowerment of a broad range of stakeholders, are keyways for climate action to be more effective, sustainable and just, as well as necessarily more reflective of local needs, worldviews and experiences.
Transformative change towards deep and swift mitigation is impeded by structural barriers that arise from the current resource-intensive economy and its vested interests in maintaining the status quo. Integrating justice and equality across global agreements, decision-making processes, production-consumption arrangements, de-risking decarbonisation investments and fundamentally revising how progress is measured would strengthen climate action and redress ingrained and persistent injustices, the report says.