At a time when the world is making efforts to keep the global average temperature rise within 1.5°C by the end of the century, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today projected in its new report the average temperature of the earth to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming over the next 20 years under all scenarios.
The situation, as expected, may lead to increased heat waves events, longer warm seasons, shorter cold seasons and faster sea-level rise globally with India facing similar impacts in its different regions in addition to the frequent occurrence of glacial lake outbursts in the Himalayan region.
The IPCC, which assesses the science behind climate change, has for the first time provided a more detailed “regional assessment of climate change” (across 11 regions globally) which will help in risk assessment and taking necessary adaptation measures.
Though the report has not assessed the city-specific details while projecting impacts on urban areas in future, the prediction of faster sea-level rise may see its impact in the form of coastal flooding in low lying areas of India’s vast coastline of 7,517 km dotted with big port cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata, Surat and Visakhapatnam.
“For cities, some aspects of climate change may be amplified, including heat (since urban areas are usually warmer than their surroundings), flooding from heavy precipitation events and sea-level rise in coastal cities,” said the report.
Authors (scientists) of the report — Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis – approved by 195 member governments, including India, however, still believe that the “strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases” would limit climate change through reaching ‘net-zero’ emissions by mid-century.
“Stabilising the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions 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,” said the IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai.
The report underlined that climate change is bringing multiple different changes in different regions, which will all increase with further warming. These include changes to wetness and dryness, to winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans.
It said, “Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions… Coastal areas will see continued sea-level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea-level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.
“Further warming will amplify permafrost thawing, and the loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic Sea ice. Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them, and they will continue throughout at least the rest of this century.”
Reacting to the findings, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is 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. Global warming is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.”
Calling for immediate action to deal with the crisis, he said, “All nations, especially the G20 and other major emitters, need to join the net-zero emissions coalition and reinforce their commitments with credible, concrete and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and policies before COP26 in Glasgow.”