UN Body’s Climate Change Report Flags Code Red Warning: What Does It Mean?
The report, “Climate Change 2021”, from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of ‘code red’ for humanity.
The IPCC, in its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), estimates that under all growth scenarios, the planet’s warming level will reach 1.5 degree Celsius. The report shows that emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1 degree Celsius of warming since 1850-1900.
Over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 degree Celsius above normal range, it says. UN Secretary-General António Guterres was the one to describe the report as “a code red for humanity.”
According to the report, major climate occurrences such as heatwaves, droughts, floods and thinning of glaciers are now indisputably linked to human behaviour, not natural causes.
“It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte. “Yet, the new report also reflects major advances in the science of attribution – understanding the role of climate change in intensifying specific weather and climate events such as extreme heat waves and heavy rainfall events.”
195 countries had adopted the agreement to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably below 1.5 degrees Celsius at the last climate conference in Paris back in 2015.
The 1.5 degrees Celsius hike would mean increased and more intense heat waves, longer summers and shorter winters. Ultimately, this would impact the water cycle, and thereby the rains, glaciers melting and sea levels.
There is also alarming news for India in the report.
The surface of the Indian Ocean has warmed faster than the global average, said the report with “very high confidence”. Coastal areas of the Indian sub-continent stand at the risk of climate-related mishaps with rising water levels. Rising carbon dioxide levels have also increased the acidification of oceans, globally.
The report adds, again with “high confidence”, that warming has occurred in the Himalayas (along with the Swiss Alps and the Central Andes) and has increased with altitude. Such elevation-dependent warming could lead to faster changes in the snowline, the glacier equilibrium-line altitude and the snow/rain transition height, it says.
“Given that India is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries, we must recognise that even geographically faraway climatic changes can have consequences for our monsoons and intensity of extreme events,” said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).
Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science & Environment, said, “Technically, India is the third-highest annual carbon dioxide polluter in the world. But the scale of our contribution is so insignificant that it cannot be compared.” However, she added, it’s in the best interest of India to take steps to combat climate change – “at speed and at scale.”
IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai added, “Stabilising the climate will require strong, rapid and sustained reduction 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.”
Ghosh said, “Our focus should be on building climate-resilient physical and digital infrastructure along with inculcating social and behavioural changes in citizens and communities.”