A few days back there was an uproar about a Report of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel For Climate Change) on climate change. This report highlights that time is evidently running out for the planet Earth and it is needed now more than ever that major contributors to climate change, developed countries, take radical steps to reduce the ever-growing greenhouse gas emissions or else 2oC global heating is just around the corner and is expected to be met within this 21st century as told by the IPCC scientists. This is the reason why it is Code Red for Humanity.
Before I delve into the major points of the report, I believe that it is mandatory to put the words of United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres out there.
“The Report is a Code Red for humanity. The evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions are choking our planet & placing billions of people in danger. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible. We must act decisively now to avert a climate catastrophe”
Climate change is the variations in the average weather conditions encompassing factors such as humidity, wind, precipitation and temperature of a geographical area, measured on a span of thirty years. The major contributors to this human-induced disaster are rapid population growth, ever-increasing urbanization, increasing industrialization, livestock farming, deforestation and high dependency of almost every economic sector on fossils fuels thereby leading to skyrocketing concentrations of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere every year.
If we look back then the average global temperature had increased upto 0.74o C between the years 1906 to 2005. As the world advanced in technology, healthcare and living conditions, this rise in average temperature went above 1o C as compared to pre-industrial times. In 21st century, we have experienced sixteen of the hottest years ever recorded.
It is mentioned that the threshold of keeping the global warming limited to 1.5oC from the pre-industrial levels, which was agreed internationally, is not going to materialize and we are going to reach 1.5o C till the year 2030 inevitably.
The IPCC report released on 9th August, 2021 presented by the working Group is a party of the IPCC’s AR6 (Sixth Assessment Report) and the whole assessment report will be published by the year 2022. It is formulated by 234 exceptional scientists belonging to sixty-six different countries. This report underscores the human contribution to climate change which has led to an unprecedented increase in the average global temperature over the past two thousand years.
IPCC’s latest report sheds light on the fact that CO2 concentrations recorded in 2019 were the highest ever in the last two million years and greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as nitrous oxide as well as methane have broken all records of the previous 800,000 years. It is indicated that surface temperature globally, in 2011–2020, have exceeded the previous records of 6,500 years. In addition, the report also projects increase in climatic changes in the future decades. At the level of 1.5oC increase, extended warm seasons along with shortened cold seasons will be experienced and there will be a significant increase in heat waves across the globe. If 2oC global warming is reached then heat extremes will cross all critical thresholds for heat tolerance especially for health and agriculture.
Furthermore, temperature is not the only domain affected by climate change. The other domains affected involve disrupting the natural water cycle by heavy downpours leading to flash floods whereas some areas experience severe drought periods. Rainfall patterns have become extremely variable with tropics projected to experience less rainfall whereas high latitudes will witness an usual increase in precipitation in the nearby future. It is indicated that extreme events of sea level rise are to occur annually at the end of 21st century and history shows that in earlier times such events happened only once in a timescale of 100 years. For coastal cities, the risk of flooding is said to increase manifold owing to the amplification of climate change induced downpours. The report summarizes that in the coming twenty years, the rise in global temperature is expected to be 1.5oC or beyond.
This IPCC report serves as an alarm signal to decision-makers of countries to reevaluate their National Plans and to achieve net zero emissions as fast as possible. This can be done through complete transition of economies to renewable energy, imposing heavy fines and penalties to GHG emitters, incorporating principles of circular economy in development, cutting down on meat production, imposing a total ban on deforestation and to align their objectives according to the sustainable development goals. Now all our efforts must be focused on how to keep this 1.5 o C constant and not let it slip beyond. The UN Chief is of the view that before the upcoming COP26 Climate Conference, decided to be held in Glasgow, every single nation including G20 countries must direct all their efforts to step into the coalition of net-zero emissions and to revamp their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by elaborating all the radical changes they are going to implement in the years to come to anchor this 1.5oC increase.