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A leading United Nations’ body has warned that climate warming will soon reach the point of no return, exposing millions, and possibly billions, of people to famine.

The stark report, released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said heatwaves, droughts and extreme rainfall would become “more frequent in coming decades” as global warming continues to rise.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the report as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership”. He warned that global average temperatures have already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius, “leaving perilously little room” for meeting the targets of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

This is the second in a series of three reports from the panel and its launch comes just over 100 days since the UN climate action summit in Glasgow (COP26) decided to step up action to limit global warming to 1.5°C and mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

Acute food insecurity

According to the IPCC’s 3,600-page report, if the rising temperature is not checked, “some of the planet’s most crowded regions will become uninhabitable.” The extreme weather events have already “exposed millions of people to acute food insecurity and reduced water security,” it said.

The report underscores the urgency in which the world must address the pressing issue of climate change. Developed countries, in particular, have a greater responsibility to shoulder their responsibility in mitigating the steadily increasing risk to the planet and its inhabitants.

A major cause of the global warming is the use of coal by many emerging economies due to the lack of other resources. Subsequent climate summits agreed that developed countries would set up a $100 billion fund to help the emerging economies’ transition to clean power through both funding the upgrade of energy sources and transferor of required technology. Developed countries have so far failed to deliver on both.

The report shows that nearly half of humanity is living in “the danger zone”. Increased heatwaves, droughts and floods are driving “mass mortalities” in species such as trees and corals. And many ecosystems are severely impacted to the point of no return as inaction continues to dominate the climate change conversation.

The report is more than a wake-up call. We are well past that stage. It is time for urgent action in the form of adequate funding to help a global transition to green energy and protect ecosystems; technology transfer to help developing nations make the transition, and political commitment and partnership to implement what has been agreed upon in the subsequent climate summits.