The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) new Special Report on The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) is yet another dire warning from the world’s scientists that the climate crisis is reaching a tipping point, according to World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada). Our planet’s ice and snow are melting, and the seas are rising.
Arriving amid a week of historic climate strikes and a U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York, the new report amps up the urgency for action with its comprehensive and staggering look at threats. There is simply no time left to delay climate action. Our future depends on what we do now.
“Nature can help us mitigate and adapt to climate change — like protecting the Last Ice Area for High Arctic species and restoring coastal ecosystems to reduce flooding and store carbon — but only people can take the bold and immediate actions needed to save our planet,” said Megan Leslie, president and chief executive officer of WWF-Canada.
Arctic: Polar regions are the front lines of the climate crisis — while the rest of the world is failing to meet targets intended to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the Arctic is already at 2°C. In fact, over the last three winters, central Arctic temperatures have been 6°C above average.
“The disappearance of sea ice threatens the very existence of ice-dependent wildlife and Inuit communities that rely on them for food, livelihood, and cultural survival,” Paul Okalik, lead Arctic specialist at WWF-Canada and former Nunavut premier.
The Ocean: The report makes clear that the melting of polar glaciers and ice sheets is now the largest contributor to global sea level rise, which is increasing 2.5 times faster than it was in the last century. No part of the world will be spared from the impacts of climate change as oceans warm and ice sheets and glaciers melt, causing rapid sea-level rise that could affect one billion people by 2050. Meanwhile 20 to 90 per cent of coastal wetlands will be lost, annual flood damage will increase by two to three times, and extreme storms will ramp up if we don’t meet our targets.
“The ocean is our planet’s life-support system and this report makes crystal clear that our lack of action on climate change poses an existential threat to the health of the ocean — and that, in turn, threatens us all,” Sigrid Kuehnemund, vice president of ocean conservation at WWF-Canada.
High Mountains: Retreating glaciers, reduced snow cover and melting permafrost are contributing to sea-level rise while threatening species with extinction and harming the river systems we rely on for hydropower, agriculture and drinking water. Further changes are unavoidable, but we can limit the scale of these changes by increasing our mitigation and adaptation efforts in the mountains and downstream.