Reading new climate report

  • GS Paper – 2,3 Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Important International Institutions


  • Even if aggressive action is done to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to the newest assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was issued on Monday, a slew of climate-related calamities would occur over the next two decades. As stated by the organisation, the ability of humans and natural systems to adapt to climate change was already being challenged, and that additional increases in global temperature will make it considerably more difficult to adapt.

Key Points:

  • The report notes that over 3.5 billion people, or more than 45 percent of the world’s population, live in areas that are highly vulnerable to climate change, and that India is one of the most vulnerable hotspots, with several regions and important cities at extremely high risk of climate disasters such as flooding, sea-level rise, and heat waves.
  • Those most recent warnings are contained in the second section of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, which discusses climate change consequences, hazards and vulnerabilities, as well as climate change adaptation strategies. The first section of the study was published in August of last year. A lot of the discussion in that one was around the scientific basis of climate change. According to expectations, the third and last part of the research, which will look at the prospects of cutting emissions, will be released in April.
  • They are the most thorough assessments of the condition of the earth’s climate available, with the first one published in 1990 and the most recent one published in 2012. Each and every significant piece of public scientific information is reviewed by hundreds of specialists to arrive at a shared understanding of how the climate is changing in real time. The four consecutive evaluation reports, each of which was thousands of pages in length, were published in 1995, 2001, 2007, and 2015, respectively. These have served as the foundation for the international response to climate change.

What is new?

  • The Sixth Assessment Report does not provide any ground-breaking information. Throughout the years, each assessment report has built on the work of the previous one, incorporating additional evidence, information, and data, resulting in a vastly improved level of clarity, certainty, and abundance of new evidence for the majority of conclusions about climate change and its impacts today than they did previously.
  • However, this does not imply that this is only a repetition of past comments. Additionally, each of these studies has increasingly broadened the area of its evaluation and included new evidence regarding many elements of climate change.
  • For the first time, a comprehensive evaluation of the regional and sectoral implications of climate change has been published in the most recent report. It has taken into consideration the threats to and vulnerabilities of megacities all across the world. For example, it has stated that Mumbai is at significant risk of sea-level rise and flooding, and that Ahmedabad is at serious risk of heat waves, among other things. Previous evaluation reports did not provide this level of specificity in their findings. Flooding in Mumbai and heat waves in Ahmedabad are both typical occurrences in the Indian subcontinent. It is the purpose of this research to examine granular data impacting these occurrences, and to quantify the risks associated with these events, in order to provide a much deeper knowledge of the hazards presented to these cities.
  • The IPCC report also included a section on the health consequences of climate change, which was a first for the organisation. A study conducted by the World Health Organization concluded that climate change is increasing the incidence of vector and water-borne illnesses such as malaria and dengue, particularly in subtropical parts of Asia. Temperature increases, according to the report, are anticipated to increase the number of fatalities from cardiovascular, respiratory, diabetic and infectious illnesses, and new-born mortality, as well as other causes. Extreme weather events like as heatwaves, flooding, and drought, as well as air pollution, were becoming more frequent, contributing to malnutrition, allergy illnesses, and even mental problems.

Various other findings

  • According to the report, the impacts of climate change were far more severe, far more frequent, and far more disruptive than had previously been anticipated.
  • “As a result of increased observations and improved understanding of processes, we now know that the extent and magnitude of climate change impacts on nature are greater than previously estimated. “The impacts we are seeing today are manifesting themselves much more quickly, are more disruptive, and are more widespread than we anticipated 20 years ago,” the report states.
  • According to the report, while aggressive efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near term, over the next 20 years, would significantly reduce the threats and projected damages, they would not completely eliminate them. If the global temperature rise exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, many effects may become irreversible, according to climate scientists.
  • The report emphasises the critical importance of taking adaptation measures as a result of the climate change. It has acknowledged that progress has been made in adapting to the new situation, but has pointed out that, in the majority of cases, this has fallen far short of what is required. According to the report, the gaps in adaptation were caused by a lack of funds and political commitment, as well as a lack of reliable information and a sense of urgency on the part of policymakers.
  • It has been noted that there are “possible and practical” adaptation strategies that might be used to lessen the hazards to people and the environment. Further increases in temperature, on the other hand, have a significant impact on the effectiveness of these options.
  • Adaptation is critical to reducing harm, but for it to be effective, it must be combined with aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, because the effectiveness of many adaptation strategies decreases as global temperatures rise,” according to the paper.

What now?

  • In many ways, the IPCC assessments serve as the scientific foundation upon which governments throughout the world base their climate change policy responses. These papers do not constitute policy prescriptions in and of themselves: they do not direct nations or governments on what to do. They are only intended to depict true circumstances that are supported by as much scientific data as is reasonably available.
  • While this is true, it is also true that it may be of great use in developing action plans to combat climate change. The thorough quality of this newest study, particularly in terms of regional and sectoral consequences, provides actionable knowledge, which is particularly useful for nations who lack the means or the expertise to conduct their own independent impact assessments. The fact that these conclusions are the result of the combined expertise of the biggest collection of climate science professionals provides them a level of credibility that is superior to that of any single research.
  • These studies also serve as the foundation for international climate change discussions, which determine how to respond to climate change at the international level. It is the result of these discussions that the Paris Agreement, as well as the preceding Kyoto Protocol, have been reached. The Paris Agreement, which was negotiated on the basis of the Fifth Assessment Report, aims to keep the rise in global temperatures “well below” 2°C from pre-industrial times while “pursuing measures” to keep it below 1.5°C. It was signed in December 2015 and came into effect on January 1, 2016. There is much of evidence in the Sixth Assessment Report, however, to show that attempting to meet the 2°C target might be disastrous, and that more aggressive steps are needed to limit the temperature rise under 1.5°C.

The Best Way Forward

  • Many people believe that climate change is a significantly larger threat to humanity than Covid-19, owing to its permanent effects on the environment. Many of the consequences, such as sea level rise and glacier melting, will be felt for many years to come.
  • Given that the climate changes that have already occurred are irreversible, it is imperative that we implement a substantial and urgent reduction in carbon emissions.
  • To achieve net-zero emissions, all countries, particularly the G20 and other large polluters, must join the net-zero emissions coalition and strengthen their promises through credible, tangible, and increased Nationally Determined Contributions.


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