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IPCC Sixth Assessment Report – What is the current status of Global Climate Change?

IPCC Sixth Assessment Report – What is the current status of Global Climate Change?

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  • GS 3 || Environment || Governance: International || Environmental Reports & Indices

Why in the news?

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published its Sixth Assessment Report titled “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.” According to the report, human activities are causing climate change, and the planet is on track to warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels over the next two decades.
  • The Sixth Assessment Report(AR6) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the sixth in a series of reports intended to assess scientific, technical, and socio-economic information concerning climate change.

What are the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change( IPCC ) reports?

  • IPCC reports cover the scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information needed to understand the scientific basis of the risk of human-caused climate change, its potential impacts, and adaptation and mitigation options.
  • The IPCC does not conduct original research or monitor climate or related phenomena.
  • Rather, it evaluates published literature, including both peer-reviewed and unreviewed sources.
  • The IPCC, on the other hand, can be said to stimulate climate science research.

Key findings of the report 

  • The report backs up India’s claim that historical cumulative emissions are to blame for the world’s current climate crisis. Because of its irreversible effects, many consider climate change to be a far greater threat to humanity than COVID-19.
  • Global warming
    • The global temperature has already risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, and scientists predict that the 1.5-degree-Celsius threshold will be crossed before 2040. The 2°C targets will almost certainly be exceeded by the end of the century.
    • To keep warming below 1.5°C, global emissions must peak by 2025. However, this is unlikely to happen.
    • This is the first time the IPCC has stated that 1.5 degrees Celsius warming is unavoidable, even in the best-case scenario.
    • Temperatures in the most recent decade (2011-2020) have surpassed those of the most recent multi-century warm period, which occurred around 6,500 years ago.
    • The last decade has been the hottest in the last 125,000 years.
  • Sea levels and acidification
    • The oceans are warming, and the sea level is rising at a rate of 3.7 mm, or about 0.1 inches, per year.
    • The rate of sea-level rise has more than tripled since 1901-1971. The Arctic Sea ice is at its thinnest in 1,000 years.
    • If emissions continue to rise, the ability of oceans and land, two important sinks, to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide will be greatly reduced.
    • Coral bleaching and increased acidification are destroying fish stocks as a result of marine heatwaves.
  • Extreme weather  events
    • According to the report, two or more climate change-related events are occurring back to back, triggering each other, or occurring concurrently. Concurrent heat waves and droughts are likely to become more common in the future.
    • Both summer and annual monsoon precipitation will increase, with enhanced inter-annual variability over Southeast Asia.
  • Glaciers and Snow
    • Since 1979, there has been a 40% decrease in Arctic sea ice.
    • During the twenty-first century, snow-covered areas and snow volumes will decrease, snowline elevations will rise, and glacier mass will likely decline with greater mass loss in higher greenhouse gas emission scenarios.
    • Rising temperatures and precipitation can exacerbate glacial lake outburst floods and landslides over moraine-dammed lakes.
    • Mountain glaciers will continue to recede and permafrost will thaw in all areas where they exist.
    • Glacier run-off in the Asian high mountains will increase up to mid 21st century and subsequently run-off may decrease due to the loss of Glacier storage.

Indian scenario

  • Extreme weather events
    • Because of its geographical location, India is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events. India’s geography is such that it is surrounded on all three sides by the warm tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and on the north by the melting Himalayas.
    • Heatwaves and humid heat stress will become more intense and common in the twenty-first century.
    • Northern India, more specifically the Indo-Gangetic Plain, was one of three large agricultural regions, along with the Midwest and Central Valley of the United States, where high ammonia concentrations were observed as a result of large-scale biomass burning.
  • Warming of ocean water-The Indian Ocean is warming at a higher rate than other oceans
  • Draughts floods  to increase
    • Increasing heat waves and droughts, rainfall events, and a likelihood of more cyclonic activity.
    • A recent event in Uttarakhand, for example, involving heavy rainfall, landslides, snow avalanche, and flooding, is an example of a compound event.
  • Emissions- For India, an increase in heat waves is marked by other emissions like aerosol emissions
  • Monsoon-Monsoon precipitation is expected to change, with both annual and summer monsoon precipitation expected to rise.
    • In the coming decades, more severe rain is expected over southern India. According to the report, the presence of aerosols and particulate matter caused by human activity has had an impact on rainfall events in the Indian subcontinent.
    • The dominant cause of the observed decrease of South and Southeast Asian monsoon precipitation since the mid-20th century is the increase in aerosols and particulate matter due to human activity,

Suggestions of the report

  • Pledge to a global net-zero by 2050
    • A global net-zero by 2050 was the minimum required to keep the temperature rise to 5 degrees Celsius. Without India, this would not be possible. Even China, the world’s biggest emitter, has a net-zero goal for 2060.
    • The report also recommends that countries set ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets and long-term strategies with a path to net-zero emissions.
    • In addition, the IPCC report acknowledged that India was already doing far more than was required. The report, however, demanded that India declare net-zero emission targets.
    • India, the third-largest emitter in the world, has been holding out against the target, arguing that it was already doing much more than it was required to do and that any further burden would jeopardize its efforts to pull its millions out of poverty.
  • Developed nations must take steps to reduce the emissions
    • The developed countries that have legacy emissions must take steps to reduce them significantly, transfer technology to emerging economies without strings attached, and heavily fund mitigation and adaptation.
  • Upgrading of NDC’s -According to the IPCC report, all countries must update their climate action plans, known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs, with stronger actions.
    • About 110 countries have updated their NDCs, but not China, India, or South Africa.
  • A no-no to coal plants- After 2021, no new coal plants may be built. Countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) must phase out existing coal by 2030, with the rest following suit by 2040.
  • Focus on renewable energy-To maintain a net-zero trajectory by mid-century, solar and wind capacity should quadruple by 2030, and renewable energy investments should triple.
    • There are technologies available to disrupt the current industrial system based on fossil fuels. Countries must now take disruptive actions to disrupt the use of fossil fuels.
  • Country-wide assessment-A countrywide assessment that urgently maps the risks based on climate change is desperately needed.

Significance of these reports

  • The IPCC assessment reports have been extremely influential in directing the dialogue and action on climate change.
  • The First Assessment Report led to the setting up of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the umbrella agreement under which international negotiations on climate change take place every year.
  • The Second Assessment Report was the basis for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that ran till last year, and the Fifth Assessment Report, which came out in 2014, guided the Paris Agreement.
  • Paris Agreement- The global climate architecture is now governed by the Paris Agreement, which replaced the Kyoto Protocol from this year.
    • There have been enough indications to suggest that global action was far below what was needed to keep the temperatures below 2°C, as mandated under the Paris Agreement.
    • In the immediate future, the IPCC report could serve as the most important warning towards the rapidly closing window of opportunity to halt the rise in temperatures to unacceptable levels and propel the governments to take more urgent actions.

Conclusion

  • According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the recently released IPCC report emphasizes that there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. So the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report urges world leaders, the private sector, and individuals to work together urgently to protect our planet.

Mains model Question

  • What is the state of the science in understanding and attributing climate changes? What are the primary drivers of climate change? Suggest some of the mitigation efforts that countries should take to deal with climate change.

References