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The keys for understanding and following climate change

  • The understanding of the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC (AR5) is crucial for achieving the communication objectives pointed out by the experts in Climate Change.
  • The work of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) reveals one of the most serious threats for future access to water.

Climate change is a fact of which we have increasingly more information. This comes from statistics, increasingly extensive, but also as a result of the advances in scientific research that constantly show more interrelations between variables that were unknown or more confused just ten years ago. The development of this knowledge, fundamental to be able to outline suitable responses to this threat for the balance of the planet, evolves with great speed and urgently requires a parallel development in scientific coordination and, above all, in communication; since communication is the tool that must change the social perception of the problem, a fundamental aspect for advancing in the solution.

This need was clearly shown in the Social Perceptions of Water and Climate workshop that the We Are Water Foundation organised in the setting of World Water Day 2015, in the Roca Barcelona Gallery, in collaboration with the IABM (International Association of Broadcast Meteorology) on the 19th and 20th of March (see the news item). The workshop brought together relevant meteorologists and experts on the current climatic situation, water and meteorological communication.

The presentations of the experts provided several key elements and platforms to understand the figures being weighed up and follow the work of the scientists in obtaining data. They must help in the urgent need of our civilisation to alleviate the phenomena and take the necessary measures to adapt to what is now an unquestionable reality

The AR5, a document for understanding and action

One of the elements of this Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC (AR5), the fundamental conclusions of which were explained by Dr. Jean Pascale van Ypersele, Vice-President of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (see the video of his intervention or download his presentation).

The AR5 is a fundamental document for understanding the magnitude of the problem and constitutes the basic reference for those responsible for scientific policies and initiatives regarding climate change. It clearly shows how the influence of mankind is evident in global warming and explains the facts that show it concretely, such as the increase in the sea level of 20 cm in the last century, the retreat of the glaciers, the loss of polar ice and the presence of greenhouse effect gases in the atmosphere.

One of the aspects that the report stresses is the special bearing that Climate Change is having and will have on the alteration of the water cycle on a global scale with the increase in hydric stress in extensive areas of the planet as one of the main consequences. It also highlights the increase forecast in extreme meteorological phenomena, such as droughts and floods in many areas, and the increase in food insecurity in areas where this is already a very serious matter.

Nevertheless, the report also points out that we have the possibility to adapt and alleviate the effects of Climate Change. As Van Ypersele stated, "the adaptation to climate change and its alleviation must be complementary, and humanity possesses the means to limit it and create a more sustainable and resistant future", although he warned that "the window for action is rapidly closing”.

The AR5 is the fifth in a series of reports that the IPCC has been publishing since it was founded in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The first report was published in 1990, an additional report in 1992, a Second Report in 1995, a Third Report in 2001 and a Fourth Report in 2007. Its aim is to assess the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information about Climate Change, its potential effects and options for its adaptation and alleviation. The Fifth Report embodies the work of experts in the multiple scientific disciplines involved in the study of the climate and also the users of the information, in particular the representatives of governments and organisations.

A very special and fundamental objective for defining the road map to deal with this threat is to prepare the way for a global and legally binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions in the Conference on Climate Change that the UN will be holding in Paris at the end of 2015.

Concrete consequences

The conclusions of the data that the AR5 produces are endorsed by experts in settings in which the consequences of global warming are patently clear. In a video of the Social Perceptions of Water and Climate workshop, Dr. Maria Neira, director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Department of Public Health and the Environment (PHE), warned that the increase in temperature will worsen problems of malnutrition that are already the cause of three million deaths per year in the poorest areas of the Earth and quoted that the estimations of the WHO suggest that climate change will cause 250,000 deaths between 2030 and 2050, considering malnutrition, exposure to heat, malaria and diarrhoea.

In the same workshop, Ernst Rauch, director of Corporate Climate Center of Munich RE, showed the large amount of statistical data that we currently have to assess the social consequences of climate change and emphasised the bearing it has on the increase of natural disasters in the world: "The disasters of meteorological and hydrological origin have increased significantly in the last decades, especially since 1980 and the poorest countries are those that suffer the worst consequences of them".

The importance of communication

Understanding the messages of the AR5 and communicating them is fundamental for achieving the social perception of Climate Change. The mass media play a key basic role here in order to create the necessary level of awareness among the population. The scientific advances must have communication as an intrinsic tool in the development of knowledge. This applies to any discipline and much more so in the question of global warming that seriously threatens the whole planet.

Also in the workshop organised by the Foundation, Michael Williams, director of Communication and Public Affairs of the WMO (World Meteorology Organisation), made clear the importance of the “weathermen” in the media to spread this knowledge in an understandable way, a task that must be taken into account on the road map that the experts are planning for the immediate future.

In the future we will be publishing in this newsletter diverse fundamental aspects of the AR5 report that refer to the bearing that Climate Change has on water and sanitation.