- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a special report warning the world that the impact of global warming is already visible and would get severe if global average temperature rise is not kept limited to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
- The report warned that climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius and increase even further with 2 degree Celsius. It also cautioned that there is a higher probability of impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, including species loss and extinction if the temperature rise is not contained to 1.5 degree Celsius.
- Experts in India laud the efforts taken by the country to tackle climate change including the massive renewable power programme but they argue that India needs to address the issue of the high use of coal and oil.
- The IPCC report takes forward the Paris Agreement and sets the stage for upcoming UN climate change negotiations, including the COP24, scheduled in Poland in December 2018.
At the December 2015 Paris Climate Summit (COP 21), India championed the cause of sustainable lifestyle and sustainable consumption and production to address climate change. Now, a recent report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also notes the importance of a sustainable lifestyle for limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius.
During the Paris Summit, India, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had pushed hard for inclusion of sustainable lifestyle practices for combatting climate change and ensured it in the final text of the Paris Climate Agreement. India had raised concerns when it was initially absent from the draft text of the Agreement.
At the Paris Summit – the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – 195 nations signed the Paris Agreement aiming to limit the rise in global average temperature to well below two degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Following that, the UNFCCC invited the IPCC to provide a special report on “the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emissions pathways”.
The special report on global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius (SR1.5) was released last week by IPCC in Incheon, Korea stating that “limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.
“Mitigation and adaptation consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius are underpinned by enabling conditions,” stated the report, elaborating that “Strengthened multi-level governance, institutional capacity, policy instruments, technological innovation and transfer and mobilisation of finance, and changes in human behaviour and lifestyles are enabling conditions that enhance the feasibility of mitigation and adaptation options for 1.5 degree Celsius.”
The IPCC report stated that the climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius and increase further with two degree Celsius.
It cautioned that “human activities are estimated to have caused approximately one degree Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8 to 1.2 degree Celsius” and temperature rise is likely to reach “1.5 degree Celsius between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.”
It said that warming greater than the global annual average is being experienced in many land regions and seasons, including two to three times higher in the Arctic.
Harmful impacts of global warming are already visible
The report warned that “impacts on natural and human systems from global warming have already been observed” and “many land and ocean ecosystems and some of the services they provide have already changed due to global warming”.
It said that a number of climate change impacts could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius compared to two degree Celsius, or more. For instance, it said, that by 2100, the global sea level rise could be 10 centimetres lower with global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius. “The likelihood of Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius, compared with at least once per decade with two degree Celsius. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius, whereas virtually all (more than 99 percent) would be lost with two degree Celsius,” it added.
The IPCC report also predicted a higher risk from droughts and precipitation deficits at two degree Celsius compared to 1.5 degree Celsius global warming in some regions. Additionally, it highlighted that a larger global land area can be affected by flood hazards and a higher probability of impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems if global warming goes beyond 1.5 degrees.
The report was prepared by 91 authors and review editors from 40 countries.
“With more than 6,000 scientific references cited and the dedicated contribution of thousands of expert and government reviewers worldwide, this important report testifies to the breadth and policy relevance of the IPCC,” said IPCC Chairman Hoesung Lee.
Panmao Zhai, who is the co-chair of IPCC’s working group-I, said that “one of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes.”
What the report means for upcoming climate change negotiations?
The report will be a significant input for the Katowice climate change conference in Poland scheduled for December 2018 when governments from across the world get together to review progress of the Paris Agreement.
With the report emphasising that the present emission cut targets and commitments are not enough, it is certain that the IPCC report will be used as a tool to seek more ambitious emission cut targets and financial commitments before the first period (2020-2030) of the Paris Climate Agreement kicks in.
For instance, the emphasis on the need of financial resources for climate change mitigation can be gauged from the report as it notes that the electricity sector alone requires an annual investment of 900 billion USD from 2012-2050.
“Total annual average energy-related mitigation investment for the period 2015 to 2050 in pathways limiting warming to 1.5 degree Celsius is estimated to be around 900 billion USD,” the report noted.
Urgent and unprecedented action needed to tackle climate change
Experts argued that the report should help in giving a direction to the world regarding the urgency.
“The IPCC report should help in giving a direction to the world regarding the urgency with which we need to tackle climate change. India, especially needs to look at sustainable development as the only way forward as it will have to uplift the disadvantaged from poverty and at the same time protect them from effects of climate change which they are most vulnerable to,” said Rakesh Kamal, a consultant with The Climate Reality Project – India, an independent organisation working on climate change related issues.
“This Paris Agreement was widely celebrated for the commitment the world made towards resolving the climate crisis. This report strengthens the urgency and the need to hasten the commitments made under the Paris Agreement and keep the world under 1.5 degree Celsius and ratchet up the commitments by developing climate-friendly solutions,” he added.
Meanwhile, the IPCC report emphasised that allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5 degree Celsius would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5 degree Celsius by 2100. “The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development,” it noted.
The report examined pathways “available to limit warming to 1.5 degree Celsius, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be.”
“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, who is the co-chair of the working group-I.
The IPCC report said that limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities”.
“Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air,” it noted.
On this, Greenpeace India said that with an ambitious target of 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, India can indeed help in keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degree Celsius, but at the same time India’s needs to relook at its future energy investments into coal and oil.
“To meet the 1.5 degree target, coal consumption would need to be cut by at least two thirds by 2030 and fall to almost zero in electricity production by 2050. Renewables would supply 70–85 percent of electricity in 2050, with trends showing even higher potential. The report finds that the substantial improvement in solar, wind and electricity storage technologies could be a sign that a system transition has already started,” it added.
“India is one of the most vulnerable countries for extreme weather events due to climate change. The IPCC report points out how regions in India will be exposed to extreme heat waves. As per the report, climate change will significantly hamper the GDPs of developing economies like India. India’s long coastline is already dealing with the effects of sea level rise, which will increase if we fail to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degree Celsius,” said Nandikesh Sivalingam, who is a campaign manager with Greenpeace India.
“India’s commitment towards fighting climate change is commendable. India has one of the most ambitious renewable energy targets in the world. The country’s current push towards electrification of transport has given us a unique opportunity to transform both, our electricity and transport systems. Energy transformation is on the horizon, from a majorly fossil fuel-powered economy, we are moving to a future powered by renewable energy. But for that to happen effectively, India needs to re-look at its investments on coal and oil,” added Sivalingam.
India must take the lead
Centre for Science and Environment that works on climate change related issues argued that that the IPCC report points out that the risk transition from 1.5 degree Celsius to two degree Celsius is very high and that the effects at two degree Celsius will be more devastating than what the IPCC’s fifth assessment report had indicated.
CSE said that coastal nations and agricultural economies like India would be the worst affected and “decline in crop yields, unprecedented climate extremes and increased susceptibility could push poverty by several million by 2050”.
“The report makes it clear that the impact of 1.5 degree Celsius warming is greater than what was anticipated earlier. Accordingly, the world would witness greater sea level rise, increased precipitation and higher frequency of droughts and floods, hotter days and heatwaves, more intense tropical cyclones and increased ocean acidification and salinity. Countries like India, with large populations dependent on the agricultural and fishery sectors, would be highly impacted,” said Chandra Bhushan, who is CSE’s deputy director general and head of climate change unit.
Bhushan also stressed on the absence of the active participation of the United States administration and said that India must take a lead.
“Though it will be very difficult in the current global economic system to limit warming to 1.5 degree Celsius, it is not impossible. This will require action on all fronts to rapidly reduce emissions by 2030. Without an active participation of the United States, this will be impossible. In totality, how the rest of the world handles the US position will decide whether the world meets the 1.5°C goal or not,” said Bhushan.
“India must take the lead in forming a global coalition for a 1.5 degree Celsius world to save poor and vulnerable populations across the world including its own,” he added.
Banner Image: A solar power plant in Gujarat. Photo by Citizenmj/Wikimedia Commons.