In November 1988, the US government asked WMO (World Meteorological Organization) and the United Nations Environment Program to set up a group to analyze global warming that scientists were beginning to talk about. The IPCC is born: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
That summer, the United States faced the worst droughts since 1930. Heat waves followed one another across the country. They killed 17,000 Americans, destroyed 90% of soybeans in some states, and burnt 3,200 square kilometers of forest in Yellowstone National Park. The cost of these heat waves is estimated at nearly 85 $ billion current US dollars.
In 1990, two years after its creation, the IPCC published its first report. It states in particular:
More heat waves could increase the risk of excess mortality. Similarly, heat-related mortality and morbidity may increase as a result of increased summer temperatures.
In 1988, the world emitted 21.5 billion tons of CO2. 26 years later, we had reached 36.1 billion tons. During this period, the IPCC published 5 reports, and especially, 5 summaries for decision-makers around the world.
In 2003, the European heat wave caused 75,000 deaths. After this dramatic episode, several countries analyzed and conducted research on heat wave adaptation and safety protocols to effectively alert vulnerable people.
Has this adaptation been successful?
2018, the northern hemisphere is suffering another terrible heat wave. Europe, North America, and Japan are feeling the burn. And according to the Montreal Public Health Department, the first heat wave in late June recorded 53 direct deaths. In Europe, very few deaths are currently attributed to the hot weather. Adaptation and heatwave plans seem to bear these fruits.
And while the IPCC has not been heard on the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions by the various governments. It seems certain though that the change in the IPCC’s discourse in recent years regarding the priority for adaptation has been heard by decision makers.
Adaptation will undoubtedly be the word to use for the next 30 years.