Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first part of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) titled Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.
• It is prepared by the scientists of Working Group-I. The two remaining parts would be released in 2022.
• It noted that global net-zero by 2050 was the minimum required to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius.
The report predicts that based on existing commitments by countries to curb their emission, the world is on track for global temperature warming by at least 2.7°C by 2100, calling it ‘Code red for humanity’.
The report also mentions that unless extremely deep emission cuts are undertaken by all countries immediately, the 2015 Paris Agreement goals are unlikely to be met. The report recommended that countries should strive to achieve net-zero emissions — no additional greenhouse gases are emitted — by 2050.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC)
• It is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change.
• It was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (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.
• 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
IPCC Assessment Reports
• The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces assessment reports that are the most comprehensive scientific evaluations of the state of the earth’s climate.
• So far, 5 assessment reports have been produced, the first one was released in 1990. The 5th assessment report was released in 2014, in the run-up to the climate change conference in Paris.
• IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The IPCC does not itself engage in scientific research. Instead, it asks scientists from around the world to go
through all the relevant scientific literature related to climate change and draw up logical conclusions.
• The IPCC reports are created by three working groups of scientists.
|Working Group||Concerned climate research|
|Working Group-I||Deals with the scientific basis for climate change|
|Working Group-II||Deals with the likely impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation issues|
|Working Group-III||Deals with actions that can be taken to combat climate change.|
IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report
• The first part (Working Group I) of IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report release follows a two-week-long plenary session held virtually from July 26 to August 6, 2021. The two remaining parts would be released next year.
• The report updates the scientific consensus and charts the future state of the climate since the 5th Assessment Report of 2014.
• The latest scientific assessment will influence discussions on the Conference of Parties meeting in Glasgow later this year when countries are expected to announce plans and steps they have taken to curb emissions
KEY FINDINGS OF THE REPORT
• Average Surface Temperature:
o The average surface temperature of the Earth will cross 1.5 °C over preindustrial levels in the next 20 years (By 2040) and 2°C by the middle of the century without sharp reduction of emissions.
▪ In 2018, the IPCC’s Special Report Global Warming of 1.5°C had estimated that two-fifths of the global population lived in regions with warming above 1.5°C.
o The last decade was hotter than any period of time in the past 1,25,000 years.Global surface temperature was 1.09°C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.
o This is the first time that the IPCC has said that the 1.5°C warming was inevitable even in the best case scenario.
• Carbon dioxide (CO2) Concentrations:
o They are the highest in at least two million years. Humans have emitted 2,400 billion tonnes of CO2 since the late 1800s.
o Most of this can be attributed to human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.
▪ The effect of human activities has warmed the climate at a rate unprecedented in 2,000 years.
o The world has already depleted 86% of it’s available carbon budget.
• Impact of Global Warming:
o Sea- Level Rise:
▪ Sea-level rise has tripled compared with 1901-1971. The Arctic Sea ice is the lowest it has been in 1,000 years.
▪ Coastal areas will see continued sea-level rise throughout the 21st century, resulting in coastal erosion and more frequent and severe flooding in low-lying areas.
▪ About 50% of the sea level rise is due to thermal expansion (when water heats up, it expands, thus warmer oceans
simply occupy more space).
o Precipitation & Drought:
▪ Every additional 0.5 °C of warming will increase hot extremes, extreme precipitation and drought. Additional warming will also weaken the Earth’s carbon sinks present in plants, soils, and the ocean.
o Heat Extremes:
▪ Heat extremes have increased while cold extremes have decreased, and these trends will continue over the coming decades over Asia.
o Receding Snowline & Melting Glaciers:
▪ Global Warming will have a serious impact on mountain ranges across the world, including the Himalayas.
▪ The freezing level of mountains are likely to change and snowlines will retreat over the coming decades.
▪ Retreating snowlines and melting glaciers is a cause for alarm as this can cause a change in the water cycle, the precipitation patterns, increased floods as well as an increased scarcity of water in the future in the states across the Himalayas.
▪ The level of temperature rise in the mountains and glacial melt is unprecedented in 2,000 years. The retreat of glaciers is now attributed to anthropogenic factors and human influence
• Net- Zero Emissions:
▪ It means that all man-made greenhouse gas emissions must be removed from the atmosphere through reduction
measures, thus reducing the Earth’s net climate balance, after removal via natural and artificial sink, to zero.
▪ This way humankind would be carbon neutral and global temperature would stabilise.
o Current Situation:
▪ Several countries, more than 100, have already announced their intentions to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. These
include major emitters like the United States, China and the European Union.
▪ India, the third largest emitter in the world, has been holding out, arguing that it was already doing much more than it was required to do, performing better, in relative terms, than other countries.
▪ Any further burden would jeopardise its continuing efforts to pull its millions out of poverty.
▪ IPCC has informed that a global net-zero by 2050 was the minimum required to keep the temperature rise to 1.5°C. Without India, this would not be possible.
▪ Even China, the world’s biggest emitter, has a net-zero goal for 2060.
Key findings of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report on India
1. The Indian Ocean is warming at a higher rate than other oceans. As a result, India will face the following issues.
o Changes in monsoon precipitation are expected, with both annual and summer monsoon precipitation projected to increase. More severe rain is expected over southern India in the coming decades. The report says the presence of aerosols and particulate matter due to human activity has influenced rainfall events in the Indian subcontinent.
o With a 7,517-km coastline, India will also witness a rise in sea levels, leading to frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-level areas. Across the six Indian port cities of Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Surat, and Visakhapatnam, 28.6 million people would be exposed to coastal flooding if sea levels rise by 50 cm.
o The global mean sea level in the Indian Ocean is rising at 3.7 mm annually. Extreme sea-level events, that previously occurred once every 100 years, will now be seen nearly every year
2. Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region will keep shrinking and the snow cover will retreat to higher altitudes.
3. Heatwaves and humid heat stress will be more intense and frequent in the 21st century.
4. Northern India or specifically the Indo-Gangetic Plain was one among three large agricultural regions along with the US Midwest and Central Valley, where high ammonia concentrations were seen due to large-scale burning
5. India’s geography makes it extra vulnerable to extreme climate events. The geography of India is such that it is surrounded by the warm tropical waters of the Indian Ocean on all three sides and the melting Himalayas on the north.
Suggestions of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report The IPCC report asks nations to follow the science and embrace their responsibility to keep the goal of 1.5C alive.
• The report also suggests, countries come forward with ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets and long-term strategies with a pathway to netzero.
o The IPCC report also acknowledged that India was already doing much more than it was required to do. But the report demanded India declare net-zero emission targets.
• The developed countries with legacy emissions have to take steps to deep cuts andtransfer technology without strings to emerging economies and heavily fund mitigation and adaptation.
• The IPCC report demands that all countries should update their climate action plans, called nationally determined contributions or NDCs with stronger actions.
• There must be no new coal plants built after 2021. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries must phase out existing coal by 2030, with all others following suit by 2040.
• By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple and renewable energy investments should triple to maintain a net-zero trajectory by mid-century
• The traditional knowledge of the world’s indigenous peoples can be a vital tool in the fight to mitigate the growing climate crisis. The report cited a number of instances such as, Peruvian fishermen’s first thought of the name ‘El
• The contributions of Inuit communities to community-based monitoring across the Arctic,
• Indigenous Australian knowledge of climatic patterns
• Technologies are available to disrupt the current fossil fuel-driven industrial system. The countries now have to take disruptive actions to disrupt fossil fuels.
• A countrywide assessment that urgently maps the risks based on the changes in climate is much needed.
• Climate change is described by many as a far greater threat to humanity than Covid-19, because of its irreversible impacts. Many of the impacts such as sea level rise and melting of glaciers will continue for many years.
• There is a need for a drastic and immediate cut in carbon emissions, given that the changes to the climate already made are not reversible.
• All nations, especially the G20 and other major emitters, need to join the netzero emissions coalition and reinforce their commitments with credible, concrete and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and policies
before COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.
• The mitigation strategies submitted by nations through the Paris Agreement are insufficient to keep the global temperature increase within the 1.5°C or even 2°C limits.
• Scientists say a temperature rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius would result in catastrophic and irreversible changes that would make it difficult for human beings and other species to survive.
• So, the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report requires world leaders, the private sector, and individuals to act together with urgency and do everything it takes to protect our planet.