IPCC report warns of unavoidable multiple climate hazards

It says Lucknow and Patna are among cities predicted to reach wet-bulb temperatures of 35°C if emissions continued to rise

February 28, 2022 09:22 pm | Updated March 01, 2022 08:53 pm IST

Climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet

Climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet

The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C and even temporarily exceeding this warming level would mean additional, severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was made public on Monday.

The report, which was to have released last September but was delayed due to the pandemic, builds on previous assessments by the IPCC by increasing the certainty of a plethora of climate-linked disasters.

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability. Some development and adaptation efforts have reduced vulnerability. Across sectors and regions the most vulnerable people and systems are observed to be disproportionately affected. The rise in weather and climate extremes have led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt, according to an accompanying statement from IPCC authors, who include scientists from India.

‘Unevenly distributed’

While progress in adaptation planning and implementation has been observed across all sectors and regions, generating multiple benefits, it was unevenly distributed with observed adaptation gaps. Many initiatives prioritise immediate and near-term climate risk reduction which reduces the opportunity for transformational adaptation, they noted.

India will achieve net zero emissions latest by 2070, that is, there will be no net carbon emissions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared at the COP26 summit in Glasgow last year. By 2030 India would also ensure 50% of its energy will be from renewable energy sources. India will reduce its carbon emissions until 2030 by a billion tonnes and cut its emissions intensity per unit of GDP by less than 45%. India would also install 500 Gigawatt of renewable energy by 2030, a 50 gigawatt increase from its existing targets, he added.

Lucknow and Patna, according to one of several studies cited in Monday’s IPCC report, are among the cities predicted to reach wet-bulb temperatures (a metric of humidity) of 35°C if emissions continued to rise, while Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Mumbai, Indore, and Ahmedabad are all identified as at risk of reaching wet-bulb temperatures of 32-34°C with continued emissions; overall, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab will be the most severely affected, but if emissions continue to increase, all Indian States will have regions that experience wet-bulb 30°C or more by the end of the century,

Global sea levels will likely rise 44-76 cm this century if governments meet their current emission-cutting pledges. With faster emission cuts, the increase could be limited to 28-55 cm. But with higher emissions, and if ice sheets collapse more quickly than expected, sea levels could rise as much as 2 m this century and 5 m by 2150.

‘Fragile ecology’

“It is expected that by 2050, we would reach 1.5 degrees Celsius. Even the slightest change in climate will have a long-lasting impact on the Himalayan region due to its fragile ecology. There would be a rapid increase in incidents like the Chamoli disaster and extreme weather events like heavy precipitation that we saw in Himachal and Uttarakhand this year,” said Anjal Prakash, Research Director of Bharti Institute of Public Policy at ISB and lead author of the chapter on cities, settlement and key infrastructure and cross chapter paper on mountains.

“The latest IPCC report, in particular, worries me on three counts. We now have high confidence that the accelerating climate crisis is increasing water-related diseases. Second, we have high confidence that climate change will severely impact food production and food security. Third, droughts and heatwaves will trigger biodiversity loss, as well as human migration. To combat this surge of crises, developing countries like India will need to significantly scale up their adaptive capacity,” said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a think tank.

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