A United Nation climate panel has warned that global warming, caused largely by man, is becoming worse and profound climatic changes already manifesting may be “irreversible” for centuries to come.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made this known in the latest IPCC report published on Monday. It warned that “strong and sustained” reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change.
The report which deals with the scientific basis of climate change and how humans are altering the planet was approved by 195 member states on Friday.
The 3,949-page report is the first installment of four reports released under the IPCC’s current assessment cycle, with subsequent reports scheduled to be published next year.
This first part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report(AR6) is aimed towards providing world leaders with a first-class standard summation of modern climate science ahead of the forthcoming Conference of the Parties (COP26) in early November.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, in his reaction to the report, described it as “a code red for humanity.”
“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,” he said.
Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC was quoted to have said “This report reflects extraordinary efforts under exceptional circumstances.”
He said; “the innovations in this report, and advances in climate science that it reflects, provide an invaluable input into climate negotiations and decision-making.”
Key findings and recommendations
The scientists noted that many of the changes observed in the climate were “unprecedented” and that some of the changes such as continued sea-level rise are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.
The highly anticipated report by the UN’s climate panel highlighted that limiting global warming to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius or even 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels “will be beyond reach” in the next two decades without immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
It said the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold is a crucial global target and that beyond this level, the so-called tipping points are most likely going to set in.
Tipping points are explained as the irreversible change in the climate system locking in further global heating.
However, at 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, the report noted that heat extremes would often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health.
The report explained that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for roughly 1.1 degrees celsius of warming since 1850-1900, and finds that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.
The UN climate panel stated that a “strong and sustained” reduction of carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change.
It said benefits such as improved air quality would come quickly, while it could take 20 to 30 years to see global temperatures stabilize.
The report stated clearly that it is not just about temperature, but that climate change is bringing different changes in different regions, noting that all will increase with further global heating.
“These changes include more intense rainfall and associated flooding, more intense drought in many regions, coastal areas to see continued sea-level rise throughout the 21st century, the amplification of permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, among many others,” the report noted.
While policymakers across the world who have endorsed the “Paris Agreement” are under immense pressure to deliver on promises made ahead of COP26. Yet, the world’s dependence on fossil fuels is expected to get even worse.
The IPCC had previously recommended that transition away from fossil fuels will be a huge undertaking that requires “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes” across all aspects of society.
This, analysts said, clearly shows that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could go hand-in-hand with ensuring a more sustainable and environmentally friendly ecosystem with clear benefits to both humans and natural habitats.
The IPCC groups
The IPCC is a UN body of 195 member states that assesses the science related to the climate crisis and was founded in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization so as to provide world leaders with periodic updates about the scale of the climate emergency, its implications, and risks and to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.
It comprises three working groups: Working Group I, II, and III. The Working Group I deals with the physical science basis of climate change.
This is the group that presented its contribution to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report(AR6) on Monday, while the Working Group II deals with impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability and Working Group III assesses the mitigation of climate change.
However, a separate task force assesses methodologies for measuring greenhouse gas emissions and removals.
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