IPCC report warns of unavoidable multiple climate hazards

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IPCC report warns of unavoidable multiple climate hazards

  • The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has warned of multiple climate change-induced disasters in the next two decades even if strong action is taken to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It has said the ability of human beings, and natural systems, to cope with the changing climate was already being tested, and further rise in global warming would make it even more difficult to adapt.

The IPCC reports

  • The latest warnings have come in the second part of IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report which talks about climate change impacts, risks and vulnerabilities, and adaptation options.
  • The first part of the report was released in August last year.
  • That one was centered around the scientific basis of climate change.
  • The third and final part of the report, which will look into the possibilities of reducing emissions, is expected to come out in April.
  • 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.
  • The four subsequent assessment reports, each thousands of pages long, came out in 1995, 2001, 2007 and 2015.
  • These have formed the basis of the global response to climate change.

What is new

  • The latest report has, for the first time, made an assessment of regional and sectoral impacts of climate change.
  • It has included risks to, and vulnerabilities of, mega-cities around the world.
  • For example, it has said Mumbai is at high risk of sea-level rise and flooding, while Ahmedabad faces serious danger of heat-waves.
  • Such granular information was not available in previous assessment reports.
  • What this report has done is to look at granular data affecting these events, and quantify these risks, so that there is a much clearer understanding of the threats posed to these cities.

Findings of the report

  • The report has said the impacts of climate change were far greater, more frequent and vastly more disruptive than previously understood.
  • The impacts today are appearing much faster, they are more disruptive and more widespread than we expected 20 years ago.
  • The report has said that while strong actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near term, in the next 20 years, would substantially reduce the threats, and the projected damages, they would not eliminate them all.
  • If the temperature rise crossed the threshold of 1.5°C from pre-industrial times, then many changes could be irreversible.
  • The need to take adaptation measures is therefore very important, the report has stressed.
  • It has recognised progress being made to adapt to the new situation, but pointed out that, in most places, it was nowhere close to what is required to be done.
  • It has said the gaps in adaptation were a result of lack of funds and political commitment, and also the absence of reliable information and a sense of urgency.
  • It has pointed out that there were feasible and effective adaptation options which could reduce the risks to people and nature.
  • But the effectiveness of these options decreases sharply with further increases in temperature.
  • 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.
  • Noting that over 3.5 billion people, over 45% of the global population, were living in areas highly vulnerable to climate change, the report identifies India as one of the vulnerable hotspots, with several regions and important cities facing very high risk of climate disasters such as flooding, sea-level rise and heat-waves.

Way forward

  • IPCC reports form the scientific basis on which countries across the world build their policy responses to climate change.
  • They are only meant to present factual situations with as much scientific evidence as is possible.
  • These can be of immense help in formulating the action plans to deal with climate change.
  • The detailed nature of this latest report, with respect to regional and sectoral impacts, presents actionable intelligence, particularly for countries that lack the resources or the capacity to make their own impact assessments.
  • The fact that these findings are the product of the combined understanding of the largest group of experts on climate science lends it a credibility greater than any individual study.
  • These reports also form the basis for international climate change negotiations that decide on the responses at the global level.
  • It is these negotiations that have produced the Paris Agreement, and previously the Kyoto Protocol.
  • The Paris Agreement, negotiated on the basis of the Fifth Assessment Report, seeks to keep the rise in global temperatures “well below” 2°C from pre-industrial times, while “pursuing efforts” to limit it to 1.5°C.
  • The Sixth Assessment Report, however, has presented lots of evidence to suggest that pursuing a 2°C target could be disastrous, and more ambitious actions need to be taken to keep the temperature rise within 1.5°C.