A 'Keep off the dunes' sign is buried in Cape May, New Jersey, after a storm surge from hurricane Sandy, 31 October 2012. Photo: acecabana

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is meeting in Japan to release its latest report, on the impact of climate change on society and the planet. Penn State professor Michael Mann and host Steve Curwood discuss how the report anticipates that increased conflict and declining supplies of food and water lie ahead.


CURWOOD: From PRI and the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Boston, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. Some 2,000 scientists from around the world help craft the periodic assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The reports have three sections: the first projects the rate of warming, the second forecasts the impact of the warming, and the final one looks at solutions to the emerging climate crisis. The first part of this latest and fifth assessment was released last fall, and it warned that humans are creating a much hotter world. Now the draft of second part is done, and it paints a grim picture of how climate disruption will affect nature and civilization. For some analysis, we turn to Michael Mann. He's a distinguished professor at Penn State University and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. Welcome back to Living on Earth.

MANN: Thanks. It’s great to be with you.

CURWOOD: So this is the second part now of the current IPCC report dealing with the impacts of climate change. Take us through some of the highlights.

MANN: Sure. What this report tells us is sort of what we already knew, but it’s more affirmative than the previous report. Climate change, we can now say with confidence, is impacting us everywhere, and what the report shows is if we continue with fossil fuel burning, business as usual, we will see far greater and far more detrimental impacts in the future as far as the impact on human health, on food, agriculture, on fresh water availability. Climate change is already a threat to national security. There’s increased conflict, and we will see far more damaging impacts if we continue going down this road. […]

CURWOOD: What does the IPCC say about the impact on public health?

MANN: Well, public health, unfortunately, is one of those sectors where we may see some of the most profoundly negative impacts. There’s reason to believe that many extratropical regions that are currently immune to the effects of malaria because of killing frosts, cold winters … as those winters warm, as we see less of those killing frosts, we will see tropical diseases spread to higher latitudes; coastal flooding and extreme weather events create large amounts of standing water that is a health risk as well. One of the things that the report notes is that if we see seven degrees Fahrenheit warming of the planet, which is within range of the projections if we continue with business as usual fossil fuel burning, then many regions of the globe will literally be unlivable. [more]

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