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IPCC sixth assessment report: What does it tell us?

  • Published at 08:38 pm October 22nd, 2021

The bottom line from the IPCC report is that time is running out

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first in three reports of its sixth assessment in August. Highlighting the science of climate change, the report paints a bleak picture of future scenarios. António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General has termed it “code red for humanity”. Over 200 scientists worked on compiling the report. They found that “without immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach”.

Taking a look at the background of these assessment reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed by the United Nations in 1988. It comprises a collection of climate scientists who assess published research to create comprehensive pictures of the state of climate change and what is needed to tackle it. The IPCC consists of three working groups, each with a specific focus. Working Group I (WG1) analyses the physical climate system; Working Group II (WG2) examines the natural and socio-economic impacts of climate change; and Working Group III (WG3) looks into the assessment of mitigation options.

The following are the five key takeaways from the recently released report from WG1:

Firstly, without a speck of a doubt, human activity is causing the climate crisis. Human activities have resulted in extreme weather, sea-level rise, more severe and frequent heat waves, heavy rainfall and droughts. Already, immense amounts of greenhouse gases are locked in as countries have continued to emit these gases, ensuring further warming of the planet.

Secondly, the Paris Agreement targets of limiting 1.5-2 degrees of warming will be beyond reach unless there are deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions right away. While some changes in the climate system are beyond recovery, others can be slowed down upon immediate action of limiting global warming.

Thirdly, all across the globe, every region is affected by climate change in a multitude of ways. Unless warming is reduced immediately, these changes and impacts will be exacerbated and increased in frequency as well as intensity. 

Fourthly, The changes in the climate are widespread, rapid and intensifying. All direct impacts of climate change are predicted to get fiercer as soon as the coming decade. 

Lastly, There is still hope: only if top-emitting countries respond with aggressive efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

In the next ten years, the planet’s very future is going to be determined: whether we are approaching catastrophic doom or will we have a small yet crucial chance to offer the future generation a prosperous, better home. Dr Saleemul Huq, Director of International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), who has also been a lead author in the IPCC’s third, fourth and fifth assessment reports, says “From now on, every record-breaking extreme weather event can be reasonably attributed to having been exacerbated by human-induced climate change. This is in effect ushering in a new era of loss and damage from human-induced climate change for the foreseeable future for all of humanity.” 

With that being said, the bottom line from the IPCC report is that time is running out. We must start taking action and plan our steps moving forward. Anthropogenic interventions have resulted in significant and alarming changes, including:

●    The global temperature increased at an unprecedented rate

●    Carbon Dioxide concentrations have been the highest in at least the past two million years

●    The fastest rate of sea-level rise in at least 3,000 years

●    Exceptional Arctic Sea ice and glacier melt in at least 1,000 years.

All these issues together allow us to safely extrapolate that each record that we break can be attributed to exaggerated climate change. This exaggeration leads us to have more turbulent climatic and environmental problems, allowing for extreme droughts, heavier rainfalls, acidification of oceans etc. 

If we are to bring in our perspective and focus on what that means for the global south, Bangladesh has already been at high risk from climate change due to its geo-positioning, where it is exposed to sea-level rise and extreme weather events. Granted the country’s vulnerability, the IPCC Asia fact sheet also states that the South Asian region will now be at a higher risk from heat waves and humid heat stress, and both the annual rainfall and summer monsoon precipitation will increase, further exacerbating the situation.

The purpose of the IPCC assessment paper is to be policy prospective; it is to provide instructions on how to act for the global audience, it shows us information on what is happening and what are the necessary steps required to mitigate the problems that arise from greenhouse gas emissions. The actions are meant to be done by the global audience, both collectively and individually. The ball is firmly in the people’s court, how they decide to act with the available information will determine the survivability of the human race. 

Shohail bin Saifullah is working at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development as a Project Associate. His interests lie in capacitating youth and climate migration. Shohail can be reached at [email protected] 

Adeeba Nuraina Risha is working at Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) as a Research Associate. Her areas of research interests include climate policy, gender and environment, and sustainable development. Adeeba can be reached at [email protected]

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