The world’s diverse regions and ecosystems are close to reaching temperature thresholds that can unleash devastating environmental, social and economic changes.
Global warming is seen as a process similar to a steady flow of water in our bathrooms and kitchens, where temperature goes up gradually, controlled by a turn of the tap, says the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).
According to a new report by WWF and Allianz Often changes related to global warming are likely to be much more abrupt and unpredictable – and they could create huge social and environmental problems and cost the world hundreds of billions of dollars.
Without immediate climate action, sea level rise on the East Coast of the USA, the shift to an arid climate in California, disturbances of the Indian Summer Monsoon in India and Nepal or the dieback of the Amazon rainforest due to increasing drought, are likely to affect hundreds millions of people and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, the WWF says.
“If we don’t take immediate action against climate change, we are in grave danger of disruptive and devastating changes,” said Kim Carstensen, the Head of WWF Global Climate Initiative. “Reaching a tipping point means losing something forever. This must be a strong argument for world leaders to agree a strong and binding climate deal in Copenhagen in December.
According to the report, carried out by the Tyndall Centre, the impacts of passing “Tipping Points” on the livelihood of people and economic assets have been underestimated so far. The report focuses on regions and phenomena where such events might be expected to cause significant impacts within the first half of the century.
“As an insurer and investor, we must prepare our clients for these scenarios as long as we still have leeway for action,” says Clemens von Weichs, CEO of Allianz Reinsurance. “Setting premiums risk-appropriately and sustainably is of vital interest to everyone involved, because this is the only way to ensure that coverage solutions will continue to exist.”
Global temperatures have already risen by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius. Global warming above 2-3 degrees in the second half of the century is likely unless strong extremely radical and determined efforts towards deep cuts in emissions are put in place before 2015.
The melting of the Greenland (GIS) and the West Antarctic Ice Shield (WAIS) could lead to a Tipping Point scenario, possibly a sea level rise of up to 0.5 meters by 2050. This is estimated to increase the value of assets at threat in all 136 global port mega-cities by around 25.000 billion USD.