How is UN's new climate change report a code red for humanity?

Pollution Aug 30, 2021

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first part of its Sixth Assessment Report titled, “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis”. Established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, IPCC is an international body which provides policymakers with an assessment of the science behind climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. IPCC assessments are used by governments at all levels to develop climate-related policies, and they support negotiations at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The IPCC report for 2021 is prepared by the scientists of Working Group-I. The two remaining parts will be released in 2022. Global net-zero by 2050 is seen as a critical goal to keep temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report sets the stage for the Conference of Parties 26 conference in November 2021.With over 300 authors and 14,000 scientific papers, this report is the most current assessment of the climate crisis.

According to the reports, global warming has come with a vengeance. At present, global temperatures have risen by 1.1°C compared to pre-industrial times. The extreme weather events that have resulted from this have already reached catastrophic levels. The IPCC has always aimed to keep global warming below 1.5°C by 2050, but they have now forecast 2034 as the earliest we will be able to reach that."This is a code red for humanity", said the United Nations chief. In the past century, climate changes have occured in 'unprecedented' ways compared to the last 125,000 years, the IPCC panel warned.

The report states some concerning remarks. Agriculture and fossil fuels are also pushing atmospheric levels of nitrous oxide and methane up to 800,000-year levels.It has been the hottest five years on record since 1850. Over 86 percent of the world's carbon budget has already been depleted, largely from human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels. Coastal regions will also experience continued sea-level rise, resulting in coastal erosion and more frequent floods. There is also concern that melting glaciers and retreating snowlines could lead to changes in water cycles, precipitation patterns, increased flooding, and water scarcity. A warming trend of 0.5°C will mean more heatwaves, extreme precipitation, and droughts in South Asia throughout the 21st century. It is also forecast that monsoon precipitation will change during the 21st century.

Scientists believe that if we take action now, a global catastrophe can be prevented. There is a sliver of hope, if the world together strives for net-zero emissions in order to stabilize global temperature and become carbon neutral. Sea-level rise due to global warming will be irreversible, but extreme weather events would probably be less severe. Many campaigns have also criticised the lack of political action in addressing the climate crisis before the report was released. Under the most optimistic scenario, Earth's surface will have cooled by 1.4oC by the century's end, which can only be achieved through the rapid implementation of more ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution by each country.

This article has been written by Sharon John for The Paradigm

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