Climate change poses a fundamental threat to everything we love. Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and new and more frequent weather extremes will leave no continent untouched. Impacts are already being felt by many communities and ecosystems worldwide. Water supplies are shrinking, crop yields are dropping, forests are burning, and our oceans are becoming more acidic. This has huge implications for our livelihoods and human security.
The task and hand is managing the unavoidable impacts and, at the same time, mitigating the impact of future climate impacts.
To have a chance of preventing dangerous global warming, the vast majority of fossil fuels—the biggest driver of climate change—have to be left in the ground. Fortunately, renewable energy alternatives are growing rapidly and a more competitive than ever; helping to shield the world from the worst climate risks, while improving human health, boosting our economies, and creating jobs.
Working with local communities, helping ecosystems adapt to rapid change, speeding up the renewable energy transition, and cutting the emissions that drive climate change—these are critical things WWF does to make a safer world, for all of us.
WWF is part of the diverse movement to fight this global crisis. Our vision is a world powered by clean, renewable energy, where communities and ecosystems are resilient in the face of climate challenges. We engage millions of citizens, leading businesses and government leaders to realise this future.
Why it matters
Governments and scientists have agreed that global warming must remain under 2°C to avoid catastrophic climate change. The mean global temperature has already risen by almost a full degree since the start of the Industrial Revolution (c. 1750). At the United Nations climate talks in Paris in December 2015, governments acknowledged the growing threat of climate change and agreed to work towards keeping warming to 1.5°C.
The world can still avoid dangerous climate change, but action is needed urgently to cut emissions and to prepare communities and ecosystems for a hotter world.
People around the world are facing extreme weather. From more dangerous floods and storms, to droughts and heatwaves, extreme weather events are growing in frequency and intensity. We’re loading more and more heat into the air and seas, upping the risks, costing trillions of dollars, and mounting an even bigger toll on people, with the poorest the most exposed.
Climate change is a health emergency. Extremes of heat, more intense drought, ferocious storms, and more torrential downpours are already undermining human health and security. We risk undoing years of public health gains if we let global warming get away. Climate change and our continued dependence on dirty energy are polluting our air, increasing the spread of disease, fuelling food insecurity and malnutrition, and making water supplies scarcer and less safe. A world of more than 2°C would see an increasing number of people move across borders, exacerbate inequity, and raise the risk of conflict and social strife.
The oceans are warming and acidifying. People and wildlife depend on the healthy oceans: a vital source of livelihoods and sustenance. The oceans have absorbed most of extra heat and carbon dioxide (CO2) so far—more than the air—making the seas both warmer and more acidic. Warming waters are bleaching coral reefs and driving stronger storms. Rising ocean acidity threatens shellfish, including the tiny crustaceans without which marine food chains would collapse.
The ice is melting and the seas are rising. Sea ice in the Arctic is shrinking before our eyes with summer sea ice expected to virtually disappear before 2050. This would have dangerous consequences for global weather, not to mention degrade the region’s marvellous ecosystem. In the Antarctic and Arctic, massive ice shelves are disintegrating and breaking away. Glaciers are retreating at alarming rates worldwide, threatening a sea-level rise of several metres by century’s end.
Our ecosystems are in peril. As climate change wreaks havoc across the globe, ecosystems could undergo serious and irreversible changes, and even disappear altogether. The increase in average temperatures will see optimal habitats for many species move higher up mountains and further towards the poles. Where there is no higher ground or where changes are taking place too quickly, local losses or even global extinctions will follow.
What WWF is doing
Promoting low carbon societies to cut dependence on dirty energy and fuels. From the local to the global, WWF works to promote a shift away from carbon-intensive activities by holding governments to account and encouraging ambitious policies that favour renewable energy.
Working to change our energy use and provide clean energy to those who don’t have access. By 2050, all of the world’s energy needs can be met from renewable sources. WWF is working to shift the world to a low-carbon economy by increasing the use of clean, renewable energy, and promoting greater energy efficiency.
Working for a shift in finance towards a low carbon resilient world. Many financial institutions are already acting to cut their climate related risks; these first-movers are leading the development of the new, low-carbon economy, which is prepared for a warmer world. WWF works with governments and private investors to raise finance for renewable energy, clean technologies, and low-carbon, resilient infrastructure. At the same time, we work to shift money out of fossil fuels.
Working with businesses to reduce their carbon emissions and source materials and energy more sustainably. Through programmes like Climate Savers, Climate Solver and Science Based Targets, WWF works with global companies that ensure they take climate change seriously and prepares them to cut their carbon emissions on a scale never seen before.
Working to reduce the impact of climate change in areas such as agriculture and land use, forests, and water. WWF supports strong action for climate change adaptation and supports industries to adjust to the changing climate and its cascading impacts.
Paris Climate Agreement
At the UN Paris climate conference (COP 21) in December 2015, nearly 200 governments came together to adopt a historic new climate deal: the Paris Agreement.
WWF is working hard to ensure that governments join the Paris Agreement and increase the ambition of their national action plans so that the sum of these plans puts us on the pathway to a climate-safe future. This work will be continued at the next UN climate meeting.
Ensuring that governments double down on their climate efforts in the years preceding 2020 is another important part of our work, and a scientific necessity if countries are going to meet the long-term temperature targets agreed in Paris.