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Insights into Editorial: Code red: On IPCC’s warning on climate points

 

 

Context:

The IPCC has issued arguably its strongest warning yet on impending catastrophe from unmitigated global warming caused by human activity, lending scientific credence to the argument that rising wildfires, heatwaves, extreme rainfall and floods witnessed in recent times are all strongly influenced by a changing climate.

 

About Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

  1. It is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change.
  2. It was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.
  3. IPCC assessments provide a scientific basis for governments at all levels to develop climate related policies, and they underlie negotiations at the UN Climate Conference – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  4. The Assessment Reports, the first of which had come out in 1990, are the most comprehensive evaluations of the state of the earth’s climate.
  5. Every few years (about 7 years), the IPCC produces assessment reports.
  6. Hundreds of experts go through every available piece of relevant, published scientific information to prepare a common understanding of the changing climate.

 

The Assessment Reports – by three working groups of scientists.

  1. Working Group-I – Deals with the scientific basis for climate change.
  2. Working Group-II – Looks at the likely impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation issues.
  3. Working Group-III – Deals with actions that can be taken to combat climate change.

 

IPCC’s Working Group I:

In a stark report on the physical science basis of climate change contributed for a broader Assessment Report of the UN, the IPCC’s Working Group I has called for deep cuts to carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases and a move to net zero emissions, as the world would otherwise exceed 1.5°C and 2°C of warming during the 21st century with permanent consequences.

Climate change is described by many as a far greater threat to humanity than COVID-19, because of its irreversible impacts.

The latest report is bound to strengthen the criticism that leaders in many countries have stonewalled and avoided moving away from coal and other fossil fuels, while even those who promised to act, failed to influence the multilateral system.

 

Heatwaves and heavy rainfall events both at same time:

The IPCC’s analysis presents scenarios of large-scale collapse of climate systems that future leaders would find virtually impossible to manage.

Heatwaves and heavy rainfall events experienced with increasing frequency and intensity are just two of these, while disruptions to the global water cycle pose a more unpredictable threat.

Also, if emissions continue to rise, oceans and land, two important sinks and the latter a key part of India’s climate action plan, would be greatly weakened in their ability to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. The new report sets the stage for the CoP26 conference in November.

 

Observations of the Report:

Noting that over 3.5 billion people, over 45% of the global population, were living in areas highly vulnerable to climate change.

The latest report warns that multiple disasters induced by climate change are likely to emerge in different parts of the world in the next two decades.

Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions.

Vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions.

These are driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalization, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance.

 

New report attributes catastrophic events:

The new report attributes catastrophic events to sustained global warming, particularly the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts, proportion of intense tropical cyclones, reductions in Arctic Sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.

A phenomenon such as heavy rainfall over land, for instance, could be 10.5% wetter in a world warmer by 1.5°C, and occur 1.5 times more often, compared to the 1850-1900 period.

More than five years after the Paris Agreement was concluded, there is no consensus on raising ambition to reduce emissions, making access to low carbon technologies easier, and adequately funding mitigation and adaptation.

COVID-19 had the unexpected effect of marginally and temporarily depressing emissions.

 

Need of the hour:

  1. The report also highlights large gaps in the adaptation actions that are being taken and the efforts that are required.
  2. It says these gaps are a result of “lack of funding, political commitment, reliable information, and sense of urgency”.
  3. Adaptation is essential to reduce harm, but if it is to be effective, it must go hand in hand with ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions because with increased warming, the effectiveness of many adaptation options declines.
  4. In addition to technological and economic changes, shifts in most aspects of society are required to overcome limits to adaptation, build resilience, reduce climate risk to tolerable levels, guarantee inclusive, equitable and just development and achieve societal goals without leaving anyone behind.

 

Way Ahead steps:

The only one course to adopt there is for developed countries with legacy emissions to effect deep cuts, transfer technology without strings to emerging economies and heavily fund mitigation and adaptation.

Developing nations should then have no hesitation in committing themselves to steeper emissions cuts.