The most important report about the impact of climate change is here, and the facts presented there are not that great.
A landmark report from the United Nations on the state of climate science, called the *IPCC Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, was approved on Friday. (*Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The panel includes government representatives from 195 countries who commission assessments from experts and academics across the world. Since its establishment in 1988, the IPCC has released five so-called Assessment Reports updating the established science on climate change, its impacts, future risks, and ways to solve the problems.
The report, which was released on Monday, is actually just part of what will go into the final Sixth Assessment Report, or AR26, when it is released in 2022. The study warns of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and a key temperature limit being broken in just over a decade. The UN chief said, as mentioned by BBC, the report “is a code red for humanity”.
Earth’s global surface temperature has surged by about 1.1 °C compared with the average in 1850–1900. This level hasn’t been witnessed since 125,000 years ago, before the most recent ice age. In the scenarios studied by the IPCC, there is a more than 50% chance that the 1.5 °C target is reached or crossed between 2021 and 2040 (with a central estimate of the early 2030s).
The report estimates that in the coming decades, climate changes will increase in all regions. For 1.5 °C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2 °C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health. Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associate flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.
The report also said that monsoon extremes are likely to increase over India and South Asia, while the frequency of short intense rainy days are anticipated to jump. The models also indicate a lengthening of the monsoon over India by the end of the 21st century. The report also showed that many consequences of climate change will become irreversible over time, most notably melting ice sheets, rising seas, species loss and more acidic oceans. And the impacts will continue to mount and compound as emissions increase.
The report also showed that, it is now unequivocal that human-caused emissions, such as from burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees, are responsible for recent warning. Scientists also found that human influence is the principal driver of many changes in snow and ice, oceans, atmosphere and land. Human-induced warming has very likely been the main driver of glacial retreat since the 1990s, the reduction of Arctic sea ice since the 1970s, the plunge in spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere since 1950, and global sea level rise since at least 1970.
It is clear that human actions have caused considerable harm to the planet, and the report said that even with stringent emissions-reduction measures, we have already backed a lot of warming into the climate system. The Arctic might practically become ice-free in September at least once before 2050 in all scenarios assessed. There will also be a rising occurrence of some extreme events “unprecedented in the historical record” even at warming of 1.5 °C.
Extreme sea level events that occurred once a century in the recent past are expected to occur at least annually at more than half of tidal gauge locations by 2100. There will also be likely increases in fire weather in many regions. We are guaranteed to face more dangerous and destructive extreme weather events than we are seeing today, thus highlighting the need to invest much more in building resilience.
The Time Is Now
We need to reduce our carbon emissions, and fossil fuel companies need to understand that it is time they make changes to their business practices. Reaching net-zero involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible using clean technology, then burying any remaining releases using carbon capture and storage, or absorbing them by planting trees.
IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai told, “Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming.” Zhai also said, “Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net-zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate.”
The report might sound like there is no hope left for the planet, but some firmly believe that we can still change things. Dr Friederike Otto, from the University of Oxford, UK, and one of the IPCC report’s authors said, as mentioned by BBC, “Lowering global warming really minimises the likelihood of hitting these tipping points.” (A tipping point refers to when part of the Earth’s climate system undergoes an abrupt change in response to continued warming) He added, “We are not doomed.”
In The End
Until now, scientist have given plenty of wake-up calls about how climate change is becoming a serious problem, and if we don’t act now, we might not be able to reverse the damage. This report also puts pressure on politicians ahead of the COP26 global climate summit in November. Companies are trying their best to reduce their carbon footprint, and policymakers are coming up with new laws to help save the planet. But this report shows that crucial steps have to be taken now, and there isn’t room for pointless discussions such as ‘climate change is not real’.
Apart from politicians, and companies, we, as individuals, should also take steps to reduce our carbon footprint on this planet. We should also hold the governments accountable when they delay in deploying measures that will help save the environment. Every step counts, and every person’s efforts count. Let’s try our best to simplify our life, and let’s work together to cool down our planet, so that the future generations can lead healthy and happy lives.