Climate change – key findings from the IPCC sixth assessment report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international body established by the United Nations in 1988 to provide objective scientific information on climate change.

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report assesses the current state of the climate system, including the observed changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, sea-level rise, and other climate indicators. It provides updated projections for future climate scenarios based on different greenhouse gas emissions pathways and assesses the potential impacts on ecosystems, human societies, and various sectors.

It explores the potential of renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon pricing, and other strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a more sustainable and low-carbon future.

It provides insights into potential adaptation strategies across different sectors and regions, highlighting the need for proactive measures to protect vulnerable communities and ecosystems.

Future climate change, risks, and long-term responses 

Future warming will be primarily caused by future emissions, significantly impacting various components of the climate system. These impacts will be widespread, affecting all regions and occurring simultaneously. Compared to previous assessments, many climate-related risks are anticipated to be higher, and the projected long-term consequences could be multiple times greater than what is currently observed. The interaction between multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will result in compounding and cascading effects across different sectors and regions. Sea level rise, along with other irreversible changes, will persist for thousands of years, and the rate of these changes will depend on future emissions.

Continued greenhouse gas emissions will lead to increased global warming.

The ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases will contribute to a further rise in global temperatures. These emissions trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to the phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect. As more greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, accumulate in the atmosphere, they enhance this effect, causing the planet to warm. The consequences of increased global warming include a range of impacts, such as rising sea levels, more frequent and severe heatwaves, altered precipitation patterns, and changes in ecosystems. Therefore, it is essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy to mitigate the impacts of global warming.

Rapid reduction in greenhouse emissions will lead to a slowdown in global warming in around two decades.

A rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has the potential to significantly slow down global warming within a relatively short timeframe, typically estimated to be around two decades. The rate at which the Earth’s temperature increases can be reduced by reducing the amount of heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere. It is widely recognized that early and substantial emission reductions are essential to limit the extent of climate change and its associated impacts.

Global warming is set to cross 1.5 degrees Celsius under current emission scenarios.  

Under current emission scenarios, global warming is projected to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This level of warming has been identified as a critical threshold to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. Crossing this threshold could result in more frequent and intense heatwaves, increased sea level rise, disruptions to ecosystems, and other detrimental consequences. Therefore, it is crucial to take immediate and substantial actions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Further global mean sea level rise, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation.

In addition to global warming, there are other significant climate change-related impacts that are occurring or projected to occur. These include further global mean sea level rise, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation. These additional impacts of climate change, further emphasize the urgent need for mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt and protect vulnerable coastal and marine ecosystems. Addressing these challenges requires collective action at local, national, and international levels to safeguard our oceans and coastal regions for future generations.

Risks 

Increase in heat-related human mortality, food borne, water borne, and vector-borne diseases, and mental health challenges.

Climate change has the potential to exacerbate several health-related challenges, including an increase in heat-related human mortality, the spread of food-borne, water-borne, and vector-borne diseases, and the emergence of mental health challenges. Climate change can impact the spread of diseases carried by vectors like mosquitoes and ticks. By addressing the underlying causes of climate change and prioritizing the health impacts, we can strive to protect vulnerable populations and promote overall well-being in the face of a changing climate.

Flooding, biodiversity loss, decrease in food production, and landslides.

Climate change can contribute to several environmental impacts, including flooding, biodiversity loss, a decrease in food production, and an increased risk of landslides. Addressing these environmental impacts requires a comprehensive approach that includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change, implementing resilient infrastructure and land-use planning to manage flood risks, conserving and restoring biodiversity and ecosystems, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, and enhancing early warning systems and disaster preparedness to mitigate landslide risks.

Vulnerability to climate change is heightened in rural areas as compared to urban areas due to climate-dependent lifestyles.

In rural areas, vulnerability to the impacts of climate change is often heightened compared to urban areas. This is primarily due to the high reliance on climate. Addressing the vulnerability of rural areas requires a multi-dimensional approach that includes building climate resilience through sustainable agricultural practices, promoting diversified livelihood options, enhancing access to financial services and technology, strengthening social safety nets, improving infrastructure, and facilitating knowledge-sharing and capacity-building initiatives. Additionally, empowering rural communities to participate in decision-making processes and ensuring their voices are heard can contribute to more effective and equitable climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. Climate-sensitive livelihoods that are closely tied to natural resources and agricultural activities.

Long term responses

Government action at sub-national, national, and international levels

It is essential for governments at all levels to collaborate, coordinate efforts, and integrate climate considerations into various sectors and policies to achieve meaningful and effective climate action.

Substantial change in energy systems

  • Transition to renewable energy
  • Energy efficiency and conservation
  • Smart grids and energy storage
  • Carbon capture, utilization, and storage
  • Sustainable biomass

In conclusion, climate change is a pressing global challenge that requires immediate action. It poses significant risks to the environment, human societies, and the economy. Mitigating climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, transitioning to clean energy sources, and promoting sustainable practices is crucial. Adaptation measures, such as building resilience and supporting vulnerable communities, are also essential. International cooperation and collaboration are key to addressing climate change effectively. By taking collective action, we can work towards a more sustainable and resilient future for generations to come.

Abhipsa Suman
Author: Abhipsa Suman