Temperatures are rising, the weather is getting extreme, seas will keep rising, atmospheric methane is skyrocketing, and this is just the start of the list of damages that humans have done to the planet.
“Global warming is dangerously close to spiraling out of control”’, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) said in its landmark report on 9th August 2021. The report is a warning that the world needs to be ready to face further climate disruptions for decades if not centuries. The panel used its strongest words to assert that humans are causing climate change, with the first line of its report summary reading: "It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land."
Here are the five things you need to know about this new UN report on climate change -
1. BLAMING HUMANS - The report says that almost all of the warming that has occurred since pre-industrial times was caused by the release of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Much of that is the result of humans burning fossil fuels, coal, oil, wood, and natural gas.
2. PARIS GOALS -
Almost all countries have signed up to the 2015 Paris climate accord, which aims to limit global warming to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average by the year 2100. However, the report’s 200 plus authors looked at 5 scenarios and concluded that all will see the world cross the 1.5-degree threshold in the 2030s, sooner than previous predictions.
3. DIRE CONSEQUENCES - The 3000 page plus report concludes that ice melting and sea-level rise are already accelerating. Wild weather events - from storms to heatwaves are also expected to worsen and become more frequent than ever before. Further global warming is “locked-in” due to the greenhouse gases humans have already released into the atmosphere. That means even if the emissions are drastically cut, some changes are going to be ‘irreversible” for centuries.
4. SOME HOPE - While many of the report’s predictions paint a grim picture of humans’ impact on the planet and the consequences that will have going forward, the IPCC also found that the so-called tipping points, like catastrophic ice sheet collapses and the abrupt slow down of ocean currents, are “low likelihood,” though they cannot be ruled out.
5. BIG CATCH -
Meeting the most ambitious goal of the Paris accord - keeping temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century - will only be possible through what is called “negative emissions”. That means sucking out more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than is added, something the reports suggest could be done after 2050. However, the panel does not state to what extent it's possible and scientists are skeptical about it.
Echoing the scientists' findings, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: "If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today's report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success." He also called the report a “Code Red for Humanity”.
This report is an eye-opener and now is the time to act- before it's too late.