IPCC AR6 Code Red – Delay no more on water!
by China Water Risk 30 August, 2021
IPCC AR6 Code Red – Delay No More On Water! It’s unequivocal – we have caused our world to warm and the IPCC AR6 has warned of “code red” on a variety of existential threats. Since many of these threats manifest in the form of water, this month we look at the AR6’s top risks with 8 things you need to know about water in the IPCC AR6, frightening new extremes and escalating costs. And to stay alive, we consulted Dutch experts on city resilience plus explored opportunities in nature based solutions (NBS) in South East Asia. With the need to fast track net zero now more urgent than ever, it is down to the G20 to save us all.
IPCC AR6’s code red alert means we must delay no more … and yes, for those of you in Hong Kong, we mean it literally and in slang. The AR6 is more assertive than the previous version AR5 – there are now many more projections/ causal relationships that are now “virtually certain”, “extremely likely” or marked with “high confidence”. This is worrying and many of these are to do with water…
Did you know that 26 out of 35 Climate Impact Drivers (CIDs) identified in the IPCC AR6 are water related? Even the WMO is urging that “water is the primary vehicle through which we feel the impacts of climate change” and that “we must bring climate change and water to the same table”. We couldn’t agree more.
It is now imperative to get on top of water risks as no region is left unscathed. And if you don’t have time to read the AR6, CWR’s Tan breaks it down for you with 8 key reasons why we can no longer delay putting water risks at the forefront of our climate fight. After all, how can you build resilience against water & climate risks or bounce back after disasters you didn’t even know was coming?
A key threat for APAC is sea level rise (SLR). Last year, when we said that the latest science pointed to plausible worst-case SLR of 2.9m by 2100 in our 5-report series on APAC coastal threats, many thought we were way too doom-and-gloom. But apparently not – the IPCC warned that 2m SLR by 2100 and 5 m SLR by 2150 “cannot be ruled out” under the worst-case scenario. Sadly, this is one area where we wish we were wrong as impacts are sobering. Worse still, the other 7 out of the 8 stats are equally as nerve-wracking.
The AR6 strongly signals that we need to prepare for the worst. We said this last month and we will keep saying this until we are resilient as it is clear from the damage this summer that we are far from prepared. CWR’s Xu takes a closer look at the record-breaking flood extremes from Germany to China – how do they differ, what do they mean? Also, see how China’s climate risk index has shifted and what’s in store for the future with rainfall projections per the AR6.
Costs are already escalating from back-to-back extreme events and are set to rise with rising intensity and frequency. Oh and now all types of events could happen at the same time with “compound extreme events” debuting in the IPCC policymaker’s summary. This means that rising clustered and cascading financial risks are inevitable unless adaptation is stepped up.
Worst still, one-off acute events occurring more often could become chronic or ‘the norm’ and we will just have to learn to live with this. But could this signal the end of insurance? Will this mean mass re-valuation of assets sooner rather than later? CWR’s Mirando ponders over how physical risks will test financial resilience and what to do in the face of rising compound risks.
One way of lowering risks is building resilience. Here, governments must do their part. Don’t know what actions to take? We sat down with Dutch adaptation experts Vivekanandhan Sindhamani and Nanco Dolman from Royal HaskoningDHV to learn more about how cities can become climate resilient. Which cities are faring the worst or the best? Find out how NBS & multi-functional blue-green infrastructure can benefit Asia.
There is another reason for Asia to focus on NBS – a recent report funded by the RS Group noted that nature absorbs 50% of CO2 emissions and can provide US$72 trillion in goods. But unlocking this has a long way to go as natural capital is chronically underfunded, especially in Asia where its wealth of natural capital should reap high market potentials. So we sat down with RS Group’s Joan Shang to find out more about the report’s key findings and the potential for the carbon market in Southeast Asia.
The AR6 leaves no doubt that adapting to survive must be prioritised by governments as our current infrastructure is simply not designed to cope with the new levels of climate threats. But the AR6 also issues stern warning of falling carbon budgets and the need to rein in emissions – “the report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
He also stressed that “There is no pathway to this goal [meeting the 1.5°C target] without the leadership of the G20”. We agree! The G20’s current focus is on ending coal but further analysis by CWR’s Leung reveals that the G20 can drive deep cuts to oil & gas emissions as they control over 60% of global oil & gas production. But it’s easy to see why the focus is on coal – the richer G20 countries produce oil & gas and the poorer ones coal.
The playing field is certainly not level. What’s more shocking is that big emitters who can afford the carbon transition are still subsidising oil! There’s no doubt that the G20 can do more and the US – the #1 global producer of both oil & gas – must lead by example to deliver deep cuts.
The AR6 as well as recent and ongoing extreme events have given us a fair warning of what’s to come. This summer there were already over 45,000 fires burning in just the US, Canada, Turkey, Greece & Italy; many are still burning. As if this is not bad enough, currently raging Siberian wildfires are greater than all the fires combined across these 5 countries.
The G20 can save us, but do we trust the US/the G7 to lead the pack? If the answer is no, then it is up to us in Asia to be brave; embrace the risks and embark on a visionary re-think and re-design of our future. We must delay no more in both adaptation and decarbonisation. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-imagine and build a climate-ready and resilient world – squandering this will have unthinkable consequences.
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