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All you wanted to know about IPCC report

Hari Vishwanath | Updated on August 16, 2021

Did you order the Code Red? Well, unlike in the movie ‘A Few Good Men’, this time one would be eager to say yes. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, described the latest report on climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as ‘a code red for humanity.’ According to him ‘the alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.’ This was a strong statement.

What is it?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988, is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was created to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks. Its assessment reports are a key input into the international negotiations to tackle climate change. The work of IPCC is spread amongst three expert working groups (WGs) — WGI, which assesses the physical scientific basis of climate change; WGII, which assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change; WGIII, which assesses options for mitigating climate change.

Last week, WGI published its contribution to what is known as the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) — The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change. WG2 and WG3 will also subsequently publish their contribution and a final comprehensive AR6 is expected to be ready next year.

Why is it important?

This is the most comprehensive report on climate change yet, and the conclusion is ‘it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.’ It is the combined output of 234 authors/scientists who have volunteered their time to assess thousands of scientific papers published each year and provide a comprehensive summary. This report was approved by 195 countries before it was published. The report makes it irrational to refute the fact of climate change, notwithstanding conspiracy theories.

According to the report, each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. Human induced climate change is already affecting every region across the globe. Despite recent efforts by many nations to address risk from carbon emissions and commitments by corporates to become carbon neutral, things are going to get worse for a while.

In the assessment of the IPCC, global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emission scenarios considered. The 2015 Paris Agreement amongst nations to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels will be breached. This limit was originally set due to assessment that problems could grow exponentially beyond that level. This not comforting

Why should I care?

Climate change will impact you and me in whichever part of the world we live in. One could live in a carbon neutral country and still face the worst effects of climate change. Unlike borders that can be defended with an army, there is no such defence when it comes to global warming. Hence this calls for global cooperation on an unprecedented scale.

The extreme weather patterns in every part of the world the report mentions have far reaching consequences for the quality of our lives and health. Equally worse is the impact of drought and floods on agriculture and food production and its economic and humanitarian consequences.

Not to forget its impact on ecology — the Black Summer of 2019-20 in Australia was in itself a wakeup call to the world to accelerate the process of reversing climate change. If not anything else, at least a look at the video of “Lewis the Koala’ from the Black Summer, should get the conscience of ordinary citizens moving and make them put pressure on their governments and corporates for faster change.

The way the world responds to this will impact the path of global economies, career opportunities and your investments. Whether it is the fossil fuel industry renewables, food (meat and faux meat) etc, or derivative industries linked to it, one can expect a sea change in how these will transition in the next decade. Trying to understand the trends early can help make appropriate decisions.

The bottomline

The climate change threat is serious. We may be mere players in the world’s stage, but we can try to get more conscious of this threat and do our bit in any small way.

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Published on August 16, 2021

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