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A History of IPPC Reports

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), established by UNEP and WMO in 1988, carries out a systematic review of all relevant published literature and provides detailed assessments on climate change, its impacts, and potential strategies.

IPCC has been warning the public about the dire and irreversible implications of emissions and global warming for years. The warnings were delivered calmly and urgently. This time, it seems that IPCC has decided to stop sugar-coating the catastrophe we are facing.

On 9th August 2021, it published the report, “The Physical Sciences Basis of Climate Change”.

This report is a part of the sixth assessment report that will be completed in 2022. Key highlights of the report are –

Humans are to be blamed for the over warming of the earth. “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.”  

The temperatures will continue rising until at least the mid-century. The most severe cuts are unlikely to avoid global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. 

Changes in the ocean, ice sheets, and sea levels are irreversible due to the emissions in the past and present. 

Since the fifth assessment report, evidence of human influence on changes in extreme situations has increased.

In its previous reports, the IPCC stated that human activity is very likely the cause of global warming. The uncertainty expressed in earlier assessments has been replaced by stark clarity in this one. The previous assessment reports released by IPCC likewise warned people about global warming and its implications.

In its first assessment report (released in 1990), it highlighted that human activities resulting in emissions have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It also predicted that the global mean temperature during the 21st century would be the greatest in the past 10,000 years, and an average rise of mean sea level of about 6 cm per decade in the next century.

The second assessment report, released in 1996, reinforced carbon dioxide as the most important contributor to the “anthropogenic forces of climate change” and warned that the response of climate change to the accumulation of greenhouses gases would be irreversible. 

During that period, climate change deniers, which included tobacco, coal, and oil industries (including Exxon), climate scientists, and politicians, attempted to drown out the perspective by arguing that these results were implausible and unachievable based on current science. These campaigns were not recognized as a coordinated movement until the early 2000s. 

The third assessment report, released in 2001, highlighted that the 1990s were the warmest decade in the instrumental record and that global warming was likely the result of human activities. It also warned that those changes are capable of causing irreversible damage to some species and ecosystems. It stated that developing and impoverished countries are the most vulnerable to climate change.

Its fourth assessment report (2007) stated that the warming of the earth was undeniable. The global average warming for the past 50 years was ‘very likely’ due to humans. It also mentioned that many impacts of climate change can still be reduced or avoided.

The fifth assessment report, completed in 2014, stated that the human effect on the climate system was apparent and that human influence was ‘extremely likely to be the primary driver of global warming between 1951 and 2010. This report laid the way for negotiations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

The latest report’s ramifications predict an increase in the frequency of fires, storms, and floods, as well as the extinction of species critical to human survival. No part of the world will remain untouched and warming will hit two degrees Celsius above the preindustrial levels by the end of the century.

According to International Energy Agency’s Global Energy Review 2021, despite the decline in CO2 emissions due to the pandemic, global energy-related emissions remained at 31.5 gigatons. CO2 also reached its highest average annual atmospheric concentration, about 50 percent higher than when the industrial revolution began. It also states that this year will witness a sharp increase in emissions as economies begin recovering from the pandemic. 

Despite repeated warnings, governments around the world have done little to reduce their emissions. The Paris Agreement’s targets are inadequate, and countries took minor steps to attain those unsatisfactory goals. Due to the pandemic hitting in 2020, climate change and its dire repercussions have slipped down the priority list. This IPCC report may serve as a reminder that climate change is just as damning as the pandemic.

The problem might be that so many of us assume that climate change is an inanimate concept, that it doesn’t impact us, or worse, that one person’s efforts alone can achieve nothing. To them, I’d like to point out that climate change is already happening, and that the excessive heat in the summers and less cold winters are the consequences of it. Your activities may not result in a tangible change on their own, but when others see you and are influenced, that will result in a tangible change. Major policy changes and actions must undoubtedly come from those in power, but we must also raise our voices loud enough for our leaders to hear and act to mitigate further damage.

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