By Theresa Pinto M.S., Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – A recent draft UN report claims that 280 million people will be forcefully displaced due to climate change, from the combined impacts of the melting cryosphere (Earth’s frozen regions) and impending sea level rise in and around low-lying areas.
At the end of September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release the final version of its special report on the ‘Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate’. It is the third ‘special report’ since October from the IPCC on the global impacts of climate change.
Earlier analyses hit upon the general effects of ‘Global Warming of 1.5ºC’ and agricultural land practices in ‘Climate Change and Land’. This report focuses on high mountain areas, polar regions, and marine ecosystems with an emphasis on the impacts on highly vulnerable dependent communities.
It concludes that low-lying cities and small island nations will feel severe impacts of flooding and storm surge every year even if nations optimistically reduce carbon emissions and keep global temperatures from increasing beyond 1.5ºC. Moreover, oceans are expected to rise enough to displace close to 280 million people from those areas by 2100.
As increasing temperatures bring more severe storms, more 100-year floods, and more rising oceans, coastal regions will have to deal with forced displacement, whether it is called managed retreat or ‘home buyouts’ under disaster relief programs.
Florida’s own Monroe County recently opened applications for a home buyout program in repeatedly flooded areas. Other Florida counties can access home buyout funds through applications to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.
California has mandated that coastal municipalities within the state prepare for managed retreat in all their adaptation and resiliency plans. According to PEW, as of 2015 a program run by FEMA has spent almost $900 million since 1998 on buyouts in 48 states with only about seven percent committed to coastal buyouts.
The science behind the report cannot be changed before its release; analysts will spend the next few weeks firming up the policy recommendations. But it is unclear whether the report will make a difference.
“There is a pervasive thread in the U.S. right now promoted by techno-optimists who think we can engineer our way out of this problem…[b]ut the U.S. is not ready for a meter of sea level rise by 2100,” Michael Mann, reknowned climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, told the Agence France-Press.
China, the U.S., the EU, and India emit over 56 percent of global greenhouse gases (the top twenty global economies emit close to eighty percent of GHGs) and will also face some of the most devastating impacts from warming oceans.
Yet, China increased its GHG emissions seventeen percent from 2015 to 2017, mostly due to new coal-fired power plants coming online, according to the UN Climate Gap Report last year.
The EU has declared principles of sustainable economic development-one of the best solutions to mitigating climate. However, most nations within the EU still work on traditional economic growth under a linear economic model.
In the U.S., Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement when he took the office of President. The Paris Agreement seeks to coordinate the global response to increasing global temperatures as an extension of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that was implemented in 1994 after the Rio Earth Summit.
India has pledged to reduce its emissions to 25 percent below 2005 levels, but instead faced a sharp 67 percent increase in emissions between 2015 and 2017 and has not adopted any circular economic principles outright.
The IPCC was established in 1988 to assess the science behind climate change in order to provide the best scientific information to international policymakers. Their sixth Assessment Report is due in 2021; the last was released in 2014.