IPCC Special Report on Climate Change

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United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released special report on global warming in Incheon, South Korea.

Key Points from report

  • It clearly shows how half degree of warming makes big difference, adversely impacting global population and overall ecosystem through intense heat waves, melting of Arctic, sea level rise, erratic rainfall, reduction of farm yield and vanishing of living species.
  • It is possible to meet new warming target, provided nations together take rapid and far reaching transitions over next 10 to 20 years in energy, industry, land use, buildings, transport and cities to cut emissions and reach net zero around 2050 — 25 years earlier than planned under earlier 2-degree goal.
  • It lists four pathways to curb global warming and through which the 1.5 degree target can be achieved. In each of pathways, global average temperature is projected to overshoot 1.5 degrees Celsius target by some amount before returning to that level before the end of this century.
  • Each of these pathways is also dependent on some amount of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), a reference to physical removal of stock of CO2 from atmosphere to reduce its concentrations. Varying amounts between 100 to 1000 gigatons (billion tonnes) of CO2 needs to be removed from atmosphere in these four pathways.
  • It refers to climate models that project robust differences in regional climate characteristics between present-day and global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.
  • These differences include increase in mean temperatures in both land ocean regions, hot extremes in most inhabited regions, heavy precipitation in several regions and probability of drought and precipitation deficits in some regions.

Advantages of keeping global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius

  • It also lists several specific advantages of keeping the global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
  • By 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5 degrees compared with 2 degrees Celsius.
  • Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5 degrees, compared with at least once per decade with 2 degrees Celsius.
  • Coral reefs will decline by 70-90% with global warming of 1.5 degrees, whereas virtually all (over 99%) would be lost with 2 degrees Celsius.
  • It also points out that climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and increase further with 2 degrees Celsius.

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Climate Change: Global Warming

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  • According to recent study, earth is at the risk of entering an irreversible hothouse condition – where the global temperatures will rise by four to five degrees even if targets under 2015 Paris climate deal are met.
  • Hothouse Earth climate will in long-term stabilise at global average of 4-5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 metres higher than today.


Key Highlights of Study

  • Currently, global average temperatures are just over 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial and rising at 0.17 degree Celsius per decade.
  • Keeping global warming to within 1.5-2 degrees Celsius as agreed in 2015 Paris climate agreement by around 200 countries may be more difficult than previously assessed.
  • Human-induced global warming of two degrees Celsius may trigger other Earth system processes often called feedbacks that can drive further warming even if greenhouse gases emissions are stopped.
  • Avoiding this scenario will require redirection of human actions from exploitation to stewardship of Earth system.
  • The study consider ten natural feedback processes, some of which are tipping elements that lead to abrupt change if critical threshold is crossed.
  • These feedbacks can turn from being friend that stores carbon to foe that emits it uncontrollably in warmer world.
  • These feedbacks include
    • Permafrost thaw,
    • Weakening land and ocean carbon sinks,
    • Loss of methane hydrates from ocean floor,
    • Increasing bacterial respiration in oceans,
    • Boreal forest dieback,
    • Amazon rainforest dieback,
    • Reduction of northern hemisphere snow cover,
    • Loss of Arctic summer sea ice and reduction of Antarctic sea ice and polar ice sheets.
  • These feedbacks tipping elements can potentially act like row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another.

Climate Change : Impact on India

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  • According to United Nations report titled ‘Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters 1998-2017’, India has suffered whopping $79.5 billion economic loss due to climate-related disasters in last 20 years.


What would be the impact of climate change on India?

Major impacts on India would be:

  1. Impact in coastal areas:
    • Nearly 40 million Indians will be at risk from rising sea levels by 2050, with people in Mumbai and Kolkata having the maximum exposure tocoastal flooding in future due to rapid urbanisation and economic growth, according to a UN environment report.
    • On coastal areashighly exposed to cyclones and typhoons, the poor tend to be more exposed to natural disasters because they live on land open to hazards.
    • Warmer climate, precipitation decline and droughts in most delta regions of India have resulted indrying up of wetlands and severe degradation of ecosystems
  2. Impact on poverty:
    • Multi-dimensional poverty in most developing countries will increase
    • Climate change will slow down economic growth and make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security and “prolong existing andcreate new poverty traps
  3. Impact on Rainfall pattern:
    • India will experience decrease in seasonal mean rainfall and an increase in mean and extreme precipitation during monsoon.
    • This will increase both floods and drought.
    • Freshwater resources will be affected due a combination of climate change and unsustainable practices.
    • A 2°C rise in the world’s average temperatures will make India’s summer monsoon highly unpredictable.
    • At 4°C warming, an extremely wet monsoon that currently has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years is projected to occur every 10 years by the end of the century.
    • An abrupt change in the monsoon could precipitate a major crisis, triggering more frequent droughts as well as greater flooding in large parts of India.
    • India’s northwest coast to the south eastern coastal region could see higher than average rainfall.
    • Dry years are expected to be drier and wet years wetter.  
  4. Impact on Agriculture:
    • There will be large reductions in wheat yield in the Indo-Gangetic plain; and substantial increase in heat stress for rice, affecting yield in the country.
    • Alterations in the flows of the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra rivers could significantly impact irrigation, affecting the amount of food that can be produced in their basins as well as the livelihoods of millions of people
  5. Impact on Health:
    • Temperature variations will lead to outbreak of diseases as well and disturb the already poor health indicators of the country. Frequency of hot days and multiple-day heat waves have increased in past century;Increase in deaths due to heat stress in recent years
    • Possibly causing a rise in Diarrhoea cases and cholera outbreaks, as the cholera bacterium survives longer in saline water.
    • Heat waves are likely to result in a very substantial rise in mortality and death, and injuries from extreme weather events are likely to increase
  6. Impact on Energy Security:
    • The increasing variability and long-term decreases in river flows can pose a major challenge to hydropower plants and increase the risk of physical damage from landslides, flash floods, glacial lake outbursts, and other climate-related natural disasters.
    • Decreases in the availability of water and increases in temperature will pose major risk factors to thermal power generation.
    • Hydro Power projects in Himalayas face flood risk from the formation of new lakes and the expansion of existing ones due to melting glaciers
  7. Impact on Water Security:
    • An increase in variability of monsoon rainfall is expected to increase water shortages in some areas.
    • Studies have found that the threat to water security is very high over central India, along the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats, and in India’s north eastern states.
  8. Migration:
    • Climate change impacts on agriculture and livelihoods can increase the number of climate refugees.



What can be done?

  • Improvements in hydro-meteorological systems for weather forecasting and the installation of flood warning systems can help people move out of harm’s way before a weather-related disaster strikes.
  • Investments in R&D for the development of drought-resistant crops can help reduce some of the negative impacts.
  • Major investments in water storage capacity would be needed to benefit from increased river flows in spring and compensate for lower flows later on
  • Coastal embankments will need to be built where necessary and Coastal Regulation Zone codes enforced strictly.
  • Improvements in irrigation systems, water harvesting techniques, and more-efficient agricultural water management can offset some of these risks.
  • Regional cooperation on water issues will be needed.
  • Crop diversification, more efficient water use, and improved soil management practices, together with the development of drought-resistant crops can help reduce some of the negative impact

Climate Change Facts

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  • Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of G20 countries are continuing to increase
  • Between 1990 and 2013, the absolute carbon dioxide emissions of G20 countries, which account for three-fourths of global CO2 emissions, went up by 56%
  • To be in line with a 2°C-compatible trajectory by 2035, G20 countries face an investment gap of almost $ 340 billion/year in the power sector
  • The globally averaged concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached to 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 2015 : WMO
  • From 2001-2014, 25% of all accidental deaths in India due to unnatural causes happened as a result of extreme weather events. Most deaths reported were due to lightning (40%), followed by extreme precipitation (24%), heatwave (20%) and cold wave (15%).


Recent Data about India:

  • Trends in global CO2 and total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions show that India’s emissions have gone up by 4.7% in 2016
  • For most major GHG emitters in the world, the emission figures have gone down, barring India and Indonesia
  • Nearly 90 percent of the country’s coal-fired power generation capacity is in violation of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) emission limits notified two years ago.


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