As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prepares to release its latest report, on Friday 6 April, which is expected to paint a frightening picture of a planet on the brink of humanitarian and environmental disaster, WWF calls for world governments to control CO2 emissions before climate change devastates the planet.
Keith Allott, head of WWF-UK's Climate Change Programme said: "There is no time left for procrastination. Climate change is right here, right now and it is killing people and wiping out the very biodiversity that sustains us all. The science tells us that the effects of climate change are already being felt at both regional and global level - and it's going to get a lot worse. This is a global emergency and we need an urgent global response."
The IPCC report is likely to confirm that the world's poorest and most vulnerable people, who have done so little to contribute to the causes of climate change, will be hit by a double whammy. Many of the world's poor live in the most vulnerable areas and will be hit by increasingly severe droughts, floods, hurricanes and disease - while having less capacity and fewer resources to cope with the impacts. Many communities depend on ecosystems including forests and fisheries which will also be severely hit.
Biodiversity is already under severe threat from many human activities, but climate change will add greatly to existing stresses. This global threat is highlighted in WWF's many field projects, ranging from the Arctic to the arid landscapes of northern Africa and is affecting almost all species from the world's biggest animals such as the great whales and polar bears to some of the smallest, like the North American pika and many of the world's amphibians.
Corals are the rainforests of the seas, holding half the sea's biodiversity and providing many ecosystem services, yet they are under severe threat as temperatures rise. Some half a billion people rely primarily on fish from coral reefs for food, especially in developing nations.
Sea level rises and melting polar ice sheets will lead to a devastating loss of biodiversity and impacts on human wellbeing. For example, melting Arctic sea ice is threatening the future of the polar bear, while sea level rise will destroy turtle nesting sites in the Caribbean. We rely on fresh water to irrigate fields and grow food - yet the glaciers that feed many of our great rivers are being lost. We rely on the oceans to provide fish, but where over-fishing has pushed many species to the edge of extinction, climate change is poised to deliver the coup-de-grôce. We rely on forests to absorb our carbon emissions, but global warming is pushing them to a point where they will begin to release rather than absorb carbon. One of our most basic needs - fresh water - is becoming increasingly scarce in some areas as a result of climate change, fuelling conflict and the migration of environmental refugees.
Keith Allott added: "One reason that the climate crisis is not being tackled with the urgency it demands is that to most people's eyes it seems to be happening in slow motion. The IPCC report will make clear that huge impacts are already being felt - and will leave no excuses for governments to duck their responsibilities to begin negotiations this year on emission reduction targets under the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol."