UN Report Offers New Warnings about Climate Change

April 1, 2014

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report detailing the significant impact climate change is already having on the Earth’s continents and ocean systems and warns that things are going to get worse unless greenhouse gas emissions are quickly brought under control.

The report warned that poor and marginalized communities around the globe will be some of the first and hardest hit victims of climate change: “The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climate disruptions intensify.”

Several Goldman Prize recipients have been fighting to protect marginalized communities from unfairly bearing the majority of the pollution and climate change burden. Now leading the battle for environmental justice on the Texas Gulf Coast, 2011 Prize winner Hilton Kelley fights for communities living in the shadow of polluting petrochemical industries. Similarly, 2013 Prize winner Kimberly Wasserman led local residents in a successful campaign to shut down two of the country’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants – located in low income neighborhoods. She is now transforming Chicago’s old industrial sites into parks and multi-use spaces.

The report also highlighted the fact that climate change will exacerbate existing problems, such as access to resources and food security, which will most likely result in violent conflict. “Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger,” the report stated.

2002 Goldman Prize winner Fatima Jibrell has been vocal about connecting the dots between environmental protection and peace and stability. She understands that people’s livelihoods are inextricably linked to natural resources and a healthy environment, which is why her organization ADESO has a strong focus on stopping deforestation, protecting and regenerating pastoralists’ rangeland and promoting food security.

The report also pointed out that governments and businesses around the world are becoming more prepared to adapt to climate disruptions. “Talk of adaption to global warming was once avoided in some quarters, on the ground that it would distract from the need to cut emissions. But the past few years have seen a shift in thinking, including research from scientists and economists who argue that both strategies must be pursued at once.”

2002 Goldman Prize winner Pisit Charnsnoh has been promoting environmental conservation as a means of climate adaption for years. He and his organization Yadfon have worked tirelessly to preserve Thailand’s coastal mangrove forests, which provide significant protection from hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

According to the New York Times, the report was quickly welcomed in Washington, DC. “There are those who say we can’t afford to act,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “But waiting is truly unaffordable. The coasts of inaction are catastrophic.”