IPCC-chair and UN climate chief debate with Latin American ambassadors

05/18/2017 - To debate climate risks and options for action, the highest-ranking representatives of both climate science and climate policy met with ambassadors from Latin America at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact (PIK) today. Hoesung-Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), attended a conference for which PIK provided most of the scientific input. Despite the wide range of perspectives on the subject, all participants agreed that tackling climate change is a common responsibility.
IPCC-chair and UN climate chief debate with Latin American ambassadors
PIK Director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber discussing with UNFCCC chief Patricia Espinoza and IPCC chair Hoesung Lee. Foto: PIK

“The future of humanity depends on how serious we take the issue”, said Ramón Custodio Espinoza, Ambassador of Honduras and President of the Group of Ambassadors from Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC) in Berlin. He is one of no less than 13 Ambassadors assembled at PIK for this conference. PIK Director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber thanked him for taking the issue seriously, and for turning to science in order to find ways to confront the challenge. “We all know that in the US White House there is somebody who is not exactly enthousiastic about climate science,” Schellnhuber said. “So in these troubled times, many countries in Latin America are shining examples."

PIK scientist Kirsten Thonicke gave a talk about scenarios of future ecosystem changes, especially for the Amazon forest, depending on different greenhouse gas emission path. Impacts on agriculture were at the centre of a presentation given by Christoph Müller, also from PIK. 

Hoesung Lee, chair of the world climate council IPCC, stressed that there is no Business As Usual. When people refer to such a BAU scenario, they assume that they can simply carry on doing what they always did, including burning fossil fuels. “Yet a world without mitigation will be very different from ‘usual’”, said Lee, pointing to the many impacts that unbraked global warming would have. “Live on the continents and in the seas, peace and justice – all are affected,” Lee said. In the IPCC’S 6th Assessment Report, to be published in 2022/23, Lee will try providing better information about the price of both climate impacts and mitigation. This, he argued, is what decision-makers need to make their choices.

“I feel among friends,” said Patricia Espinosa of the UNFCCC who herself is from Mexico and used to be an Ambassador to Germany. Latin American countries are vulnerable to climate change, she stressed: the continent has long coastlines to be hit by sea level rise, forest fires are a threat, there is pressure on farmers “and we see internal displacements” in several regions, said Espinosa. “What will your children and grandchildren say? They will say: What did you do?”