IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report warns against unabated global warming

M Ramesh | Updated on August 09, 2021

A key message for India is that the country should expect heat waves and continued melting of Himalayan glaciers

The first part of the much-awaited Sixth Assessment Report (AR-6) of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just been released, and the message is depressing: there is no letup in global warming.

Many deleterious effects of global warming are already locked-in — they are upon mankind, no matter what is done now. A key message for India is that the country should expect heat waves and continuation of Himalayan glaciers melting, though massively heavy rainfalls will happen more towards the end of the century.

The IPCC is an international body of scientists set up under the aegis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, created to generate scientific data to assist countries in policy making. The body brings out its ‘assessment reports’ periodically—the previous (fifth) one came out in 2013.


The AR-6 provides a more region-wise view of things than did the previous ARs, but it tells nothing new—its message is, unfortunately, just as expected. “What we see is what we have expected in AR-5,” said Dr Frederike Otto, Associate Director, Environment Change Institute, University of Oxford, on Sunday, at a press conference of Indian journalists.

Two temperature limits are important in the climate change lingo: 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C. They represent the additional global warming over the average of 1850-1900. At the 2015 Paris Agreement, 195 countries accepted the target of ‘2 degrees’ and pledged to working towards it, while aiming for an “ambition” of 1.5 degrees.

The IPCC (Working Group-1) report notes that the world has already warmed 1.1 degrees more than 1850-1900. The 1.5 degrees is likely to be reached in a couple of decades, which means more heat waves and longer warm seasons. At the present (inadequate) level of climate action, limiting warming to 2 degrees appears tough.

This will have even more deleterious consequences.

The report provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades, and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.

The report notes that each 1000 GtCO2 of cumulative CO2 emissions will to likely cause a 0.27°C to 0.63°C increase in global surface temperature with a best estimate of 0.45°C. It stresses the need for active removal of carbon dioxide.

Experts have warned against a business-as-usual attitude towards climate change. Climate change “is already costing lives, livelihoods and billions in infrastructure damage the world over,” says Dr Arunabha Ghosh. CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a think-tank.

"With the average global temperature rise poised to go beyond 1.5 degrees celsius in the next couple of decades, there would be further serious socio-economic consequences for humanity, coupled with an increased risk of new diseases, conflicts, and crises, says Ghosh, stressing that given that India is highly climate-vulnerable, “we must recognize that even geographically faraway climatic changes can have consequences for our monsoons and intensity of extreme events.”

Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, a Delhi-based think-tank, sees “an impossible gap” between climate science and climate action. She notes, for example, that while China (the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter) said it would achieve ‘net zero emissions’ by 2060, it built 38.4 GW of new coal plants in 2020, comprising 76 per cent of the global total (50.3 GW). 

“The best of the world’s science is now available to us and it is established that the world’s climate is changing. The best political will is now needed,” Khosla told Business Line.  

Published on August 09, 2021

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