Time for some good news! But we have a long way to go

As per the worst case scenarios by the UN’s climate change projections, global temperatures would increase by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) by 2100, leading to at least 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) in global sea level rise. This paints a gloomy picture,  however, new research from the University of Colorado Boulder finds that these high-emissions scenarios, used as baseline projections in the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global assessments, have not accurately reflected the slowing rate of growth. The new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, is the most rigorous evaluation of how projected climate scenarios established by the IPCC have evolved since they were established in 2005.1

To see if IPCC scenarios were on track, the researchers compared projections from the latest report, published in 2014, and data used to prepare the upcoming report, to data gathered from 2005 to 2017 on country-level gross domestic product (GDP), fossil-fuel carbon dioxide emissions, likely energy use and population trends during this century. Interestingly this study showed that even before the pandemic, due to slower-than-projected per-capita GDP growth, as well a declining global use of coal, these high-emissions scenarios were already well off-track in 2020, and look likely to continue to diverge from reality over the coming decades and beyond. The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the global economy only substantiates their findings further.1

Hurrah! So the good news is that emissions are not growing nearly as fast as IPCC assessments have indicated, according to the authors of the study. The IPCC is not using the most accurate and up-to-date climate scenarios in its planning and policy recommendations. The research recommends that these policy-relevant scenarios should be frequently re-calibrated to reflect economic crashes, technological discoveries, or other real-time changes in society and Earth’s climate.

The IPCC was established in 1988 and provides policymakers around the globe with regular research-based assessments on the current and projected impacts of climate change. Its reports, the sixth of which is due out in 2022, play an instrumental role in shaping global climate policy.

The researchers are quick to warn that their study does not suggest that people can let their guard down when it comes to addressing climate change. No matter the scenario, the only way to get to net zero emissions as a society is to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from our energy sources. 

Some ways to do this are to lower the consumption of fossil fuels by switching to use as much clean energy sources such as solar and wind power, as possible.  India has committed to increase its existing renewable energy capacity to 220 gigawatts by 2022 and 450 gigawatts by 2030. The ambitious One Sun One World One Grid project, a trans-national electricity grid that will connect 140 countries through a common grid that will be used to transfer solar power, is a huge step and commitment in this direction. 

Honerable Prime Minister of India, also said the country is moving forward with the goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 30-35% while addressing the eighth convocation of Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University in Gandhinagar. 2 

Today, per unit cost (of solar power) has come down to less than Rs. 2 from Rs. 12-13 earlier. Switching to renewable sources of energy is not only cost efficient and best for the environment but also great for the energy security of a country. It makes a country ‘Atmanirbhar’. 

1 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201130131404.htm

2 https://www.bloombergquint.com/politics/india-aims-to-reduce-carbon-footprint-by-30-35-pm-narendra-modi

Gautami Shah
Author: Gautami Shah

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