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Assessing the climate risks scenario post-2022


The warnings are fair and loud enough – if climate targets are not met within this decade and the next, the world community will face unprecedented weather and climate extremes that could ravage life and properties beyond repair, so to say.

By Salam Rajesh

‘Human society causes climate change. Climate change, through hazards, exposure and vulnerability generates impacts and risks that can surpass limits to adaptation and result in losses and damages’.

These hard hitting statements come from the report of the Working Group-II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) under the broad heading “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”. The report, part of which comes out as Summary for Policymakers, intended for heads of States and policy makers at the global perspective, looks intently at the climate risk scenario in post-2022 period.

At the same time the report outlines that, ‘Human society can adapt to, maladapt and mitigate climate change; ecosystems can adapt and mitigate within limits. Ecosystems and their biodiversity provision livelihoods and ecosystem services. Human society impacts ecosystems and can restore and conserve them’.

These assessments on climate risks consider possible future climate change, societal development and responses, wherein the IPCC AR6 2022 report assesses literature based on climate model simulations of the fifth and sixth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5, CMIP6) of the World Climate Research Programme.

The Working Group-II contribution to the IPCC AR6 assessment combines ‘multiple lines of evidence including impacts modeling driven by climate projections, observations, and process understanding. Common levels of global warming relative to 1850-1900 are used to contextualize and facilitate analysis, synthesis and communication of assessed past, present and future climate change impacts and risks considering multiple lines of evidence’.

In other words, the assessment is an endeavor to understand the status of the natural environment in the context of the several negative impacts induced by various human-led activities, comparing to processes that were evident during the pre-industrial era and as is observed in the modern times.

A broad comparison is that climatic conditions globally had incurred changes drastically since the era of the industrial revolution at the turn of the nineteenth century anno domino. This accounts for findings indicating global temperature rise of more than one degree Celsius since the pre-industrial period leading to unprecedented weather conditions in the modern times.

The report while assessing impacts from climate change says, “Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability. The rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt”.

This observation more or less describes the observed increase in frequency of tropical cyclonic storms which in recent years have lashed the coastlines relentlessly, destroying homes and properties consistently. The recent unprecedented occurrence of widespread wildfires in Australia and the western parts of the United States are being attributed to evident impacts of climate change.

The IPCC AR6 report stresses that, ‘Widespread, pervasive impacts to ecosystems, people, settlements, and infrastructure have resulted from observed increases in the frequency and intensity of climate and weather extremes, including hot extremes on land and in the ocean, heavy precipitation events, drought and wildfires’.

Elaborating on the evident impacts of climate change, the report outlines that “These include increased heat related human mortality (medium confidence), warm-water coral bleaching and mortality (high confidence), and increased drought related tree mortality (high confidence)”.

Stressing on the vulnerability faced by both human and natural environments, impacts of the rise in global temperature leading to weather extremes is largely being felt on both land and sea where on the one hand erratic rainfall patterns have induced droughts in many places while increasing warm water in the seas and oceans is killing the coral life.

Changes in weather and climatic conditions, such as the perceived changes in rainfall pattern globally, is predicted to have considerable impact on the agricultural cycle and crops which could lead to food insecurity in the shorter term and the extinction of species in the longer term. This could further lead to changes in lifestyles and food habits with adaptation to non-native species of crops and foods, affecting the dynamics of traditional life.

Climate change, the AR6 report says, has ‘caused substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems. The extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in previous assessments. Widespread deterioration of ecosystem structure and function, resilience and natural adaptive capacity, as well as shifts in seasonal timing have occurred due to climate change, with adverse socioeconomic consequences’.

The report sets a tone of pessimism for the world community when it sums up on its analysis by stating that, “Beyond 2040 and depending on the level of global warming, climate change will lead to numerous risks to natural and human systems. For 127 identified key risks, assessed mid and long term impacts are up to multiple times higher than currently observed. The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming”.

It, therefore, rests upon the human system how best it can find solutions fast enough to thwart these fair warning signs, already evident and unleashed upon the world with each succeeding year. The island nation of Japan is one country which has borne the brunt of nature’s fury during these past several years.

Efforts at community and global scales to meet targets set under climate negotiations recently, such as the ambitions targeted under the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration for example, hopes to minimize the anticipated impacts of weather and climate extremes.

Human ambitions such as the great African Green Wall project, which garners the strength and support of communities spread across seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, is one last ditch in the race to meet the targets outlined in the Aichi Targets and the Paris Climate Agreements for instance.

The warnings are fair and loud enough – if climate targets are not met within this decade and the next, the world community will face unprecedented weather and climate extremes that could ravage life and properties beyond repair, so to say.

(The writer is a media professional working on environmental issues. He can be reached at [email protected])

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