Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Highlights of the Report
Mains level: Impacts of Global Warming
IPCC Report on Climate Change
- Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet.
- The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its gloomy report at a meeting in Incheon, South Korea.
- Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate, the report states.
Quick recap of IPCC
- IPCC is a scientific government body under the UN established in 1988 by two UN organizations, the WMO and the UNEP and later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly.
- The IPCC produces reports that support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is the main international treaty on climate change.
- IPCC reports cover the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.
- Membership of the IPCC is open to all members of the WMO and the UNEP.
Findings of the Report
- Half as many people would suffer from lack of water.
- There would be fewer deaths and illnesses from heat, smog and infectious diseases.
- Seas would rise nearly 4 inches (0.1 meters) less.
- Half as many animals with back bones and plants would lose the majority of their habitats.
- There would be substantially fewer heat waves, downpours and droughts.
- The West Antarctic ice sheet might not kick into irreversible melting.
- And it just may be enough to save most of the world’s coral reefs from dying.
The 1.5℃ Goal
- In 2010, international negotiators adopted a goal of limiting warming to 2°C since pre-industrial times. It’s called the 2° goal.
- In 2015, when the nations of the world agreed to the Paris climate agreement, they set dual goals — 2°C and a more demanding target of 1.5°C from pre-industrial times.
- The 1.5° was at the urging of vulnerable countries that called 2°C a death sentence.
- The world has already warmed 1°C since pre-industrial times, so the talk is really about the difference of another half-degree C from now.
- There is no definitive way to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 above pre-industrial levels.
Advantages of warming below 2℃
- The IPCC studies have looked at the physical impact on the land and ocean, as well as at the socio-economic impact, like health, malnutrition, food security and employment.
- Some examples:
- Limiting global warming to 1.5°C could prevent around 3.3 million cases of dengue every year in Latin America and the Caribbean alone.
- A World Bank report on Climate Change and Health, 2015 said that an additional 150 million people could be at risk from malaria if the temperature was allowed to increase beyond 2°C.
- A study in the journal Climate Change in 2016 claimed that the world could have 25 million fewer undernourished people by the end of the century, if the 1.5°C goal was achieved.
- A study published in PNAS in March 2017 said about 350 million additional people could be exposed to deadly heat waves if the warming increased to 2°C as compared to 1.5°C.
- A study in Nature Climate Change in March 2018 said the 1.5°C could prevent 153 million premature deaths due to air pollution by 2100, as compared to the 2°C scenario.
- A UNDP report in 2016 claimed that a 1.5°C strategy could create double the number of jobs in the energy sector by 2050.
- Also, compared to the 1.5°C scenario, extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and heat waves are likely to become more severe and frequent, and freshwater supply could fall sharply, in a 2°C world.
How to reach the 0.5 ℃ target?
- As of now, the world is striving to prevent the temperature rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius, in accordance with the stated objective of the Paris Agreement of 2015.
- To meet that target, the aim is to reduce greenhouse gases by only 20 per cent, from 2010 levels, by the year 2030 and achieve a net-zero emission level by the year 2075.
- Net-zero is achieved when the total emissions is balanced by the amount of absorption or removal of carbon dioxide through natural sinks or technological interventions.
Is the 1.5°C target attainable?
- The IPCC report suggests possible pathways to attain the 1.5°C objective.
- Any such path would involve much sharper and quicker emission cuts by big emitters like China, the US, the European Union and India, than what these countries currently plan to do.
- However, their publicly declared planned actions currently are not big enough to achieve even the 2°C target.
- In Paris in 2015, the countries had acknowledged that if they failed to do more, annual emissions of carbon dioxide could touch 55 billion tonnes in 2030.
Problem of CO2
- Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, stays in the atmosphere for 100-150 years.
- That means even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to somehow miraculously stop all of a sudden, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would remain at the current levels for many years to come.
- That is why there is a significant interest these days in technologies that can physically remove the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and store it somewhere, either temporarily or permanently.
- Caron Dioxide Removal (CDR) would be used to compensate for residual emissions.
- CDR is a reference to physical removal of the stock of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reduce its concentrations.
- But the technologies for CDR are still undeveloped and untested.
Way Forward: Nothing is Impossible
- Limiting warming to the lower goal is not impossible but will require unprecedented changes
- To limit warming to the lower temperature goal, the world needs “rapid and far-reaching” changes in energy systems, land use, city and industrial design, transportation and building use, the report said.
- Meeting the more ambitious goal would require immediate, draconian cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases and dramatic changes in the energy field.
- It is up to governments to decide whether those unprecedented changes are acted upon.