If we don’t adapt to climate change, the only option is to suffer: IPCC official

TEHRAN, Jun. 20 (MNA) – Some of the world’s oldest and biggest trees are dying off, and climate change might be the culprit. The baobab tree, often called “the tree of life,” can live up to 3,000 years old and is normally found in Africa’s savanna. However, they have abruptly died, wholly or in part, in the past decade.

A study published in the journal Nature Plants found that nine of the oldest and five of the biggest have completely or partially died in the past twelve years. The researchers investigating this suspect that climate change is to blame due to the changing conditions affecting the Southern Africa region for the demise of the monumental baobabs.

And climate change is again the primary suspect. 

Jonathan Lynn, head of communications and media relations at Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the international body for assessing the science related to climate change - told the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview that “climate change has a tipping point, meaning that if we stop burning fossil fuels today the climate will continue to change because of what we have done in the past is already creating that change.”

“At the moment we have the possibility of adapting to that. But if we do nothing and let it carry on we will reach a point where we can no longer adapt and when you can no longer adapt then the only option is to suffer,” Lynn warned.

The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

Lynn has explained that IPCC assessments provide a scientific basis for governments at all levels to develop climate-related policies, and they underlie negotiations at the UN Climate Conference – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“The work on the sixth assessment report has already started we have just selected 720 authors including one Iranian author. The authors of the working group one are having their first meeting in china this month and after that they will prepare the first draft of the report. There are two other working groups. So the reports of the three working groups will come out in 2021.”
Below is the text of the interview:

How IPCC assessment reports help public and the government in fight against the climate change?

The reports of IPCC are aimed primarily for policy makers, we don’t write them with the public, normal specialists and citizens in mind as our main audience. With that said we know that everyone has an interest in climate change and wants to know what we are saying and even governments tell us that we should make our work easier to understand for the non-specialist so that they can communicate with the citizens. 

It’s a big challenge for us because we don’t want to distort the complicated scientific materials and dumb them down. So we are working with communication experts to make it easier for the people to follow these finding. 

The IPCC doesn’t tell people what to do, our research is more policy relevant without being policy prescriptive, so we are not going to tell people you cannot fly on planes or you cannot eat meat, etc., but people can see the evidence in our reports and draw their own conclusion on the basis of that scientific evidence and what is appropriate and practical for them to do as a contribution if they want. Actually one of the things we are looking at these reports is what motivates people to change their behavior. We are trying to understand what motivates decision making and behavioral change. 

How IPCC reports, in particular, can help the Iranian government to address climate change?

We don’t help one government more than any other. But I should say that the thing that is special about IPCC report is that it brings together the policy makers and the scientists. So the policy makers who are the members of the governments are the ones who ask for the reports and they also determine the broad scope of the reports and what they want the scientists to look at. And they say that if the scientists write a report for us we will respect it, so the scientists then write the report and then the two come together at the end to work on a summery for policy maker to make sure that the summery which is the high-level command is a good reflection of the report, clear and understandable and something that governments can work with, so as a result the reports are very strong because they endorsed by the policy makers and the scientific community.

And as a part of that process Iran is one of the governments that ask for the report and has endorsed it so we assume that the report is useful for Iran because they would have had that input to scoping it out and approving it. In addition to that we’ve had many Iranian scientists working on the assessment reports and in our previous cycle which produced the fifth assessment report one of our bureau members was from Iran. 

The Iranian government has its doubts about staying in Paris agreement or pulling out of it. How the decision is going to affect the country’s environment?

Climate is a global phenomenon, it doesn’t stop at borders, every country is vulnerable to climate change and we’ve already seen the impacts of climate change in every country, so Iran has a big interest in solving this, this is a problem that can be only solved by the global community coming together and every country has an interest in contributing to that. 

Now how you dividing up the responsibility to solve the problem that’s a matter for negotiation of climate change which has its scientific basis in IPCC reports. But I should also say that tackling climate change isn’t just a burden it’s also an opportunity. For instance the transport sector or electricity production and burning oil which cause problems for climate are also causing problems for public health and people have respiratory diseases, so it’s in governments’ interest to tackle that even apart from the effect thy have on climate change, they not only have economic benefit they also have positive effects on social well-being. 

There are other examples too. Looking at ways to adjust our economies to climate change there are new business opportunities to take and there are new jobs in green economies. So it’s not just that you have to spend money to deal with climate change it’s something that you should want to do because it will bring you other benefits and if you do nothing then you will face the costs. Doing nothing is not an option.

What is the role of media in tackling the problem of climate change?

I think climate change something very important that affects everyone and has the potential to do such considerable damage. The previous heads of the United Nations have said that climate change is the greatest challenge that is facing the humanity. So it’s something that is interesting to write about and media can play an important role in making people aware of the problem but also to offer solutions. I think media have to be very clever, you can’t just give scientific facts and figures, people won’t be interested in reading about that or talking about government conferences. You have to find a way of relating this to everyday life of people and talk about how climate change is already affecting some specific people, a fisherman, a farmer here, or a shopkeeper there,…

How old people are suffering from increasing heat, and how hospitals have to face with new types of diseases, specific examples of what’s happening, but also how people are adjusting.

Media can write about the problems people are facing due to climate change but also positive stories of how communities came together and rescued people. 

In your opinion, are we able to reverse the negative impacts of climate change in the next 50-100 years?

This is what our last report said and I think we can do it and we have the option to do it and it’s our choice, when I say “our” I mean the global community, we don’t have much time and if we don’t move soon it will become more and more difficult and eventually it will become impossible. Climate change has a tipping point. So if we stop burning fossil fuels today the climate will continue to change because of what we have done in the past is already creating that change. At the moment we have the possibility of adapting to that. But if we do nothing and let it carry on we will reach a point where we can no longer adapt and when you can no longer adapt then the only option is to suffer.


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