A clean industrial revolution has been urged in the wake of the publication of a major report on the impacts of climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fifth assessment report, released today, warned that rising temperatures will increasingly threaten security, health and food supplies, exacerbate poverty and damage species and habitats.
Authors of the report say the world has already begun to feel the effects of climate change on every continent and across the oceans, but warned that in many cases people are ill prepared to cope with the risks of a changing climate.
Vicente Barros, co-chair of the IPCC study on climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation, from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina said: "We live in an era of man-made climate change.
"In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future."
According to Mark Kenber, chief executive of the Climate Group, which works with governments, business and organisations to drive action on climate change, a clean industrial revolution is needed to cut greenhouse gases and spur economic growth.
"The latest report from the IPCC makes for sobering reading,” he said. "From Asia's most dynamic and growing cities to Arctic shipping lanes, the effects of climate change will leave no nation untouched and have profound impacts on the global economy.
"The IPCC report needs to act as a wake-up call. The 'head in the sand' approach is a ticket to failure. Businesses that refuse to adapt are sealing their own fate and putting communities and investors at risk. They're also wantonly squandering the massive opportunities in low carbon growth.
"The only road that leads to both a reduction in carbon emissions and economic growth is one built on a clean industrial revolution. This means investing and innovating now in large scale renewable deployment, energy efficiency, new finance mechanisms and low carbon business models.
"Most of the energy and technology solutions needed already exist, but need rapid scaling up today not tomorrow."
Dr Colin Brown, director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said the report’s warning that the impacts of global warming are likely to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible” was particularly worrying.
“It is vital that Government and industry around the world not only step up efforts to cut global greenhouse gas emissions, but also allocate more resources to adapt our infrastructure and communities to the inevitable changes climate change is set to bring,” he said.
“Engineers and scientists are at the very heart of delivering mitigation and adaptation solutions. Big issues like this grab the imagination of young people who will live through the changes.
“The report is looking for positives, and this is surely one of them. This is a golden opportunity to encourage more people to study Science Technology Engineering and Maths, so that climate change can be managed, not just endured.”
Professor Georgina Mace, chair of the Royal Society Working Group on Human Resilience to Climate Change and Disasters, said early proactive adaptation is vital as it is likely to be far cheaper and more effective than reactive measures.
“Because we are not well adapted now, dealing with current crises in an incremental manner may distract from making the substantial changes to infrastructure, food, water and energy systems that will be necessary,” she said.
“Enhancing resilience – the ability to withstand future shocks and stresses – is a step beyond adaptation and especially important to reduce the widening variation in risks and opportunities for people in different areas of the world. Recent progress in development in parts of Asia and Africa could stall if risks to large numbers of poor and vulnerable people are not averted.”
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey supported the findings of the report saying it vindicated the UK’s decision to adopt some of the most ambitious climate change targets and invest in low carbon and energy efficiency technologies.
"The science has spoken. Left unchecked, climate change will have far reaching consequences for our society,” said Davey. "This evidence builds the case for early action in the UK and around the world to lessen the risks posed by climate change. We cannot afford to wait."