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UN Report: Half of World's Population 'Highly Vulnerable to Climate Change'

UN Secretary-General António Guterres says the "climate time-bomb is ticking."

Zachary McAuliffe Staff writer
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Factory at sunset spewing clouds into the air

Scientists said humanity needs to "act now" to secure a future for all.

Joe Sohm via Getty Images

Without "urgent climate action," about half of the world's population faces an increased risk of death from extreme weather conditions, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in a report released Monday.

The climate crisis has already taken a severe toll on people's health around the globe, according to the UN and to the World Health Organization.

"In the last decade, deaths from floods, droughts and storms were 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions," Aditi Mukherji, a water management researcher and one of the authors of the new IPCC report, said in a statement Monday.

In a tweet point to the IPCC report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the "climate time-bomb is ticking."

Guterres added that the report shows "we have the knowledge & resources to tackle the climate crisis."

The IPCC wrote that the challenge of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels has become greater in recent years as human activity has pumped more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels for more than a century, as well as unsustainable land and energy use, have led to global warming of 1.1° Celsius above preindustrial levels, according to the report.

"The pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are insufficient to tackle climate change," the report reads. "Emissions should be decreasing by now and will need to be cut by almost half by 2030, if warming is to be limited to 1.5°C."

According to the report, there are multiple effective, readily available options that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help humanity adapt to human-caused climate change, including changes in the food and transport industries. Things like political commitments and international cooperation are also important for effective climate action, according to the report. A better understanding of the consequences of overconsumption is key, too.

"Transformational changes are more likely to succeed where there is trust, where everyone works together to prioritise risk reduction, and where benefits and burdens are shared equitably," IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said in the report. "If we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all."

For more, read how flooding could impact more people than those who live on the coasts, how the climate crisis has impacted the mental health of some people and why tech companies can't stop talking about sustainability

Watch this: Data Center Climate Change lede animation