Climate change is a much-debated topic today. In this issue of IIN, we discuss the recent IPCC Report. This topic is regularly seen in the news and hence, is important for the UPSC exam. Read our Issues in News segment for insights into topics that make headlines and are important for the IAS exam.
GLOBAL WARMING OF 1.5 ºC
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently published a report on global warming and changes in the climate system and the associated impacts on natural and human systems, with a specific focus on the magnitude and pattern of risks for global warming.
The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, known as SR15, Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.
From the past of climate change event
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015 organized a Paris summit in which 195 countries adopted a long term temperature goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
To achieve the temperature goal the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change was invited in 2018, to produce a special report on global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
UNEP was result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference) in June 1972 and has overall responsibility for environmental problems.
UNEP is one of the most important wings of United Nation which is responsible for global environmental agenda, promotes sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. It has its headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme in 1988 formed the IPCC for assessment of science related to climate change, its impacts; predict future potential problems and the best possible adaptation and mitigation ways to deal with it. The report provided by IPCC is most authentic document which play a vital role in policy framing of climate change in different countries.
The fifth assessment report 2014 of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Due to the global warming the global temperature is rising which is leading to adverse climate change ultimately. Greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous dioxide and carbon dioxide are responsible for global warming and the carbon dioxide is one of the major contributor.
The continuous warming of climate will increase the frequency and severity of several extreme events such as change in rainfall, risk for human life, and will affect livelihoods, coastal settlements, infrastructure, ecosystems and economic stability in low-lying coastal areas.
The average increase in the temperature of the Earth’s surface has been 0.85 degrees Centigrade (°C).The global shoot up of temperature has induced changes in rainfall pattern which is ultimately altering freshwater systems, affecting the quality and quantity of water availability.
The excess amount of the energy (30%) is retained by ocean which is ultimately resulting in ocean warming, acidification and rise in sea level due to melting of ice and snow in Arctic region.
It is evident from the report that species and ecosystem have been adversely effected by greenhouse gases, the productivity and nutrient percentage have fallen down to great extent.
The climate change is going to increase the cost of living as it will increase the heat days and problem dengue, malaria will persist a lot, and there will a significance increase in human life loss.
Why limit the rise of global temperature to 1.5°C?
Limiting global warming to 1.5°C instead of 2°C could result in fewer exposure to extreme heat waves, floods, drought and changes in global mean surface temperature of earth.
Risk of heavy precipitation and tropical cyclone will be limited if global warming is limited to 1.5°C. It will also reduce the intensity and frequency too.
Limiting global warming to 1.5°C is expected to substantially reduce the probability of drought and risks associated with water availability i.e. water stress in the world.
Risks to natural and human systems are lower at 1.5°C than 2°C Reduced rates of change enhance the ability of natural and human systems to adapt, with substantial benefits for the whole biodiversity.
Some regions are projected to experience multiple compound climate-related risks at 1.5°C that will increase with warming of 2°C and creating new hazards, exposures, and vulnerabilities to human and weather at local level.
If the warming occurs at 2°C then there will be an at least one sea-ice-free Arctic summer out of 10 years and at 1.5°C one sea-ice-free Arctic summer every 100 years at.
The rise in mean sea level rise will be around 0.1 m less by the end of the century in a 1.5°C world as compared to a 2°C warming. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide, resulting in ocean acidification.
Risks for natural and managed ecosystems are higher at 2°C as it will require more mitigation pathways in comparison to 1.5°C.The size and duration of mitigation pathway will also lead to changes in land use resulting adverse impacts on food production and ecosystem diversity.
The ocean productivity at 1.5°C will be adaptable than at 2°C as later will lead to more damage to ecosystems e.g. coral reefs, and mangroves, sea grass and other wetland ecosystems, loss of fisheries productivity, and dead zones.
Risks of food shortages, heat-related mortality particularly in urban areas because of urban heat islands. Risks are projected to change for some vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever with positive or negative trends depending on the disease, region, and extent of change will be lower at 1.5°C than at 2°C.
At 2°C of global warming the coastal tourism will be at margin line at the same time salinity of coastal groundwater will also increases and degradation of beach and coral reef assets. Global warming of 1.5°C has potential to limit economic damages of many developed and developing countries and of the small island, low lying coasts and deltas.
Impact on climate due to global warming
It is evident that global mean surface temperature has reached to 0.87°C of both land and ocean which ultimately result in increased frequency and intensity of heat waves, precipitation, flood, water scarcity and droughts.
The rise of the sea level possess a major threat to marine ecosystem and differential changes in mean surface temperature of ocean water will tend to change the patterns of precipitation at global level. The acidification of ocean will also increase.
Overshooting in the global warming poses large risks for natural and human systems, especially if the temperature at peak warming is high, because some risks may be long-lasting and irreversible, such as the loss of many ecosystems.
The geographic range of many species will be lost and risk to biodiversity related factors such as forest fires, extreme weather events, and the spread of invasive species, pests, and diseases will also hike up.
In course of global warming there will be long lasting change in the land use pattern to adapt with climate change, this will impact negatively in almost all regions hampering the food security and reducing the nutritional content and overall productivity will be reduce.
The reduction in agricultural productivity will lead to out migration of agricultural-dependent communities. Poverty will increase as total economic growth will also fall down at global level.
The cost of living will increase as rise in temperature will accelerate energy demand for luxurious consumption and human race will be prone to new vector borne diseases and infections. The goal of sustainable development will be a bit more difficult to achieve.
Mitigation pathways compatible with 1.5°C in the context of sustainable development
Limiting of the global warming to 1.5 will need cooperation at global level, governance of energy and land transformation and reduction in the resource intensive consumption.
Nationally Determined Contributions which were adopted in Paris agreement have to be implemented with immediate effect and achieve the target of net zero CO2 emissions in less than 15 years.
In developing countries and for poor and vulnerable people, implementing the response would require financial, technological and other forms of support to build capacity, for which additional local, national and international resources would need to be mobilized.
The advancement in the solar energy, wind energy, hydro power, bio-based feedstock’s and substitution are some of the new more suitable option for power and a great extent of greenhouse emission can be reduced by switching to these energies. Hydrogen, bio-based feedstock and substitution
Global and regional land-use and ecosystems transitions and associated changes in behavior that would be required to limit warming to 1.5°C can enhance future adaptation and land-based agricultural and forestry mitigation potential.
Improving the efficiency of food production and closing yield gaps have the potential to reduce emissions from agriculture, reduce pressure on land and enhance food security and future mitigation potential
A mix of mitigation and adaptation options implemented in a participatory and integrated manner can enable rapid, systemic transitions in urban and rural areas that are necessary elements of an accelerated transition to 1.5°C.
The pathways of 1.5°C typically rely on Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), Afforestation and Reforestation (AR), or both, to neutralize emissions that are expensive to avoid, or to draw down CO2 emissions in excess of the carbon budget.
- Enabling Rapid and Far-reaching Change
The speed and scale of transitions and of technological change required to limit warming to 1.5°C would require more planning and stronger institutions, as well as stronger coordination and disruptive innovation.
Limiting warming to 1.5°C implies reaching net zero CO2 emissions globally around 2050 and concurrent deep reductions in emissions of non-CO2 forcers, particularly methane. Such mitigation pathways are characterized by energy-demand reductions, decarburization of electricity and other fuels, electrification of energy end use, deep reductions in agricultural emissions, and some form of CDR with carbon storage on land or sequestration in geological reservoirs.
Investments in low-carbon energy technologies and energy efficiency would need to approximately double in the next 20 years, while investment in fossil-fuel extraction and conversion decrease by about a quarter. Uncertainties and strategic mitigation portfolio choices affect the magnitude and focus of required investments.
- Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR)
Carbon dioxide removal or negative emissions technologies and practices are anthropogenic activities, thus this will require removing CO2 from the atmosphere and transferring it to geological, terrestrial, product or ocean storage. It includes anthropogenic enhancement of biological or geochemical sinks and direct chemical air capture and storage, but it excludes natural CO2 sinks.
- Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
A process in which a relatively pure stream of carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial and energy-related sources is separated (captured), conditioned, compressed and transported to a storage location for long term isolation from the atmosphere.
The decarbonisation means reducing carbon intensity; that is, the emissions generated from the different sectors such as power station. This is necessary to achieve the mandatory greenhouse gas emission targets which require emissions to be cut by 80 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.
Global Temperature Rise of 1.5ºc: Impact on India
India which is mainly an agrarian economy and most of the agriculture is rain-fed. Any change in the precipitation will lead to adverse impact on the productivity and nutritional value will also reduce. Global warming will intensify heat waves, floods and droughts, water stress, and reduced food production.
Since rise of the temperature will impact directly and indirectly several aspect such as ripening period, seasonal shift of cropping, flood, drought and in some area will have rainfall. India which has vast stretch of coastline and many important cities such Bombay, Gujarat, Chennai, etc. which play an eminent role in coastal Indian economy will be at utmost loss.
The changes in the sea level will heavily impact the coastal economy of India and induce the problem of population migration to urban areas due to submergence of coastal low lying areas.
Overall impact of the climate change will increase the economic burden of country as the health sector will require more funds to fights with new water, airborne diseases and infections.
The country will now have to fight this climate change with a new dimension of environment will which will induce new energy and potential to fight for a noble cause.
At present, technology which can ensure the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are under trial. The target of limiting the temperature to 1.5°C to pre-industrial period is largely dependent on the technologies which are undergoing testing process, hence this will require global joint efforts.
All the major economies of world needs to unite together academically, technically and a joint financial funding in the name of climate funding is the need of this hour. There has to be technology transfer from the developed nation to developing nations and a greater responsibility to be played by developed nations.
Reduction of the global warming or limiting it to 1.5°C will be a tedious task for whole world to do. It will require a more strong political will, regional integration at the climatic level and economic collaboration will facilitate the way forward. This will require acting on all fronts to rapidly reduce emissions by 2030. The joint efforts at the global level will make this impossible target possible.
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