On October 8, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a terrifying report on the fast-approaching effects of climate change. The report, commissioned by world leaders under the Paris Agreement, describes a world of worsening food shortages, wildfires and poverty as soon as 2040. Scientists had previously estimated that the threshold for the most severe effects of climate change would occur when the atmospheric temperature increases by two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, but the new report shows that many of those effects will come sooner, at the 1.5 degree mark—that’ll happen by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate.
According to the report, avoiding the most serious damage will require transforming the world economy within a couple of years; if we fail to act, it estimates the damage will cost $54 trillion. And although the authors say it is technically feasible to make the changes needed to avoid reaching the two degree threshold, politically it seems highly unlikely; U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to increase the burning of coal—the U.S. is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter—and Brazilian far-right candidate and likely new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has promised to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
The report’s findings are particularly significant for regions like Latin America, which would experience some of the greatest impacts from climate change. Latin Americans are already starting to notice the effects. According to data from LAPOP’s 2016-17 AmericasBarometer survey, climate change concern was highest in Mexico and Central America, where 81.5 percent characterized climate change as a “very serious” problem. They were closely followed by 75 percent in South America and 55.7 percent in the Caribbean.