Leaked UN climate report a call to 'act'

By: AFP      Published: 11:31 PM, 23 Jun, 2021
Leaked UN climate report a call to 'act'

Grave warnings of the myriad threats to the planet in a draft UN climate report reinforce the message that "we need to act right now", said Greta Thunberg, in response to AFP's exclusive on Wednesday.

The draft by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lays out in relentless detail the potential dangers ahead for species, ecosystems and humanity.    

It is not scheduled for public release until February 2022 -- after crunch UN summits this year on climate, biodiversity and food systems.

Here are some of the reactions to the report:

Face reality

"It confirms what we already knew, that this situation is very dire and that we need to act right now," Thunberg told AFP. 

But the Swedish activist, who spearheaded the "Fridays for Future" movement, added she found it hopeful that "many people are becoming more and more ready to tell it like it is".

"We can of course not face this crisis unless... we are adult enough to tell the truth, and to face the reality," Thunberg said.

"The worst thing is that when people don't want to talk about the climate crisis... they try to smooth things over. Try to make it sound more attractive," she said. 

It was important to ensure the message is not "that things will be fine, 'don't worry'... when that in fact is not true."

Too soon 

In response to AFP's reporting, the IPCC released a statement saying it "does not comment on the contents of draft reports while work is still ongoing".

The IPCC explained that the reviewing process involving researchers and "practitioners across a broad range of expertise" was still in progress. 

It said this was "designed to ensure that the report is as accurate, comprehensive and objective as possible".

After the polar bear

"Climate change isn't just one more priority on our already over-crowded list," said Katherine Hayhoe, a prominent climate scientist at Texas Tech University and chief scientist at Nature Conservancy.

"It is a threat multiplier that affects every single other priority already on it, from the air we breathe to the food we eat."

"Climate change matters: because after the polar bear, we're next."

In a Twitter thread on the draft, she stressed that it is pulled together largely from published scientific studies.   

"They just hadn't been pulled together into one overwhelming list," she said. 

Hayhoe notes that previous major climate reports tended to underplay the severity of the threats.

"This tendency to understatement in past reports has been so marked that they even coined a term for it: 'erring on the side of least drama' or ESLD," she said. 

Serious mistake

Respected climate scientist Francois Gemenne, who leads the Hugo Observatory and is an author on the IPPC report, stressed that the draft seen by AFP will undergo revisions before it is finalised and may even include extra sections. 

"This is not the version that will be adopted in February 2022", he said on Twitter.  

He added that it would be a "serious mistake" to imagine that any focus on the "key messages" was useful.  

"Disclosure of results prior to the outcome of this process undermines the credibility of the work of the IPCC as a whole," Gemenne said.