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Rising uncertainties


01. How likely is "very likely"?

The science is clear. Climate change is already happening and is increasing at an alarming pace. Multiple reports released in recent months tell us that the world will be irreversibly hotter by the end of this century. But what does this mean for our kids?

Before this century is out, the global temperature may well be two to four degrees Celsius higher than around 1850. This rate of warming is probably without precedent during at least the last 10,000 years.

That means not only will our children experience different day to day weather, they will also be confronted with an increase in heat waves, floods, droughts and in the intensity of tropical cyclones, as well as extremely high sea levels. In fact, many children around the world already are.

02. Climate change is bound to continue

Across the Pacific and Caribbean islands, rising sea levels are not only eroding the coastline, but contaminating fresh water sources. In countries as far flung as Mongolia, Peru, Kenya and Australia, years-long droughts are threatening farming families. Densely populated cities, like Hong Kong, Paris, New York, are sweltering in the summer. That’s just to name a few.

The worst long term effects can still be avoided if we substantially cut greenhouse-gas emissions. Which means we must demand action on the Paris Accord. This agreement brings together for the first time every nation on the planet, to work toward combating climate change and adapting to its effects. It also calls for enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.

But however aggressively we cut back on fossil-fuel use, climate change is bound to continue: the greenhouse gases already emitted stay in the atmosphere for many decades. We have no choice but to adapt to the changing risks.

We’re taking action around the world to work with you and your community - to adapt and cope with extreme weather.


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03. Why we should care about “probably”

Make no mistake, climate change is real and it’s happening now. So why does the scientific community still preface data with the qualifiers “likely” and “probably”?

In the recent New York Times article, Losing Earth, Annemarie Crocetti, a public-health scholar was quoted as saying:

“I have noticed that very often when we as scientists are cautious in our statements, everybody else misses the point, because they don’t understand our qualifications.”

To break it down we’ve lifted the IPCC’s “likely” index:

Very likely ≥90% probability of occurrence, according to expert judgement.

Likely ≥66% probability of occurrence.

04. Rising uncertainties

At the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, we talk about rising uncertainties because, although we can’t always pin down with 100% accuracy where and when the inevitable hazards will be as a result of climate change, we can see the trends.

And they all point to a rise in risk. This is partly due to what’s happening in the climate, partly also due to the increasing numbers of people, often in vulnerable areas, such as growing megacities near the coast or near big rivers. The trends also show that the world's poorest are often the hardest hit. They often live in more dangerous places. They may also depend on agriculture for more of their income, and have less savings to cope with a bad harvest. For example, in 2016, 23.5 million people were displaced by extreme weather related events.

But a more volatile climate does not have to mean an increase in disasters.

We can all take action to help prepare for, mitigate or prevent hazards from becoming a disaster.