IPCC sounds Code Red on climate; rich nations must do more
The sixth assessment report of the IPCC has declared a ‘Code Red’ for humanity on climate change. Global temperature-rise will breach the 1.5oC (above pre-industrial levels) mark in the next 10-20 years, though how ambitious humanity gets on emission reduction will determine if this can be lowered meaningfully over the remainder of the century. Bear in mind, while the Paris Agreement aims at keeping temperature-rise well under 2oC by 2100, the ‘ideal’ that has been talked about is 1.5oC.
For perspective, different corners of the world are already witnessing extreme weather events while the current warming is 1.1oC above 1850-levels. With a 1.5oC rise, extreme heat waves expected every 50 years in a no-heating scenario will occur 8.6 times more frequently. And some of the climate change effects will be irreversible (snow melt, rise in sea-levels, oceans becoming more acidic as oxygen levels fall, etc). The report’s science is robust, and thus there can be no shifting blame to other factors—anthropogenic factors are the largest contributors to climate change. Indeed, human-activity has had the planet dashing to the precipice over the last four decades, each of which is hotter than any other decade since 1850; oceans were last as acidic some two million years ago.
For India, the implications are severe—the IPCC projects extreme rainfall, droughts and heat-waves over South Asia to become a lot more frequent than now with rising warming. That the need for mitigation efforts is urgent has become something of a cliché now. While India is one of the handful of nations that are on track to meet their Paris commitments, this is nowhere near enough.
There is much more, in terms of energy transition, support for communities, etc, that needs to be done. That said, as this newspaper has pointed out repeatedly, the onus of meaningful climate action lies squarely on developed nations and China. This is not to cut India slack on climate-action, but the fact is that the celebration of the US’s and the EU’s ‘aggressive’ net-zero goals ignores two facts: the high-carbon pathway they followed to get to their current levels of prosperity, devouring a large chunk of the carbon-budget on the way, and that they will be the main economic benefactors of trade in green technology that developing nations will need to decarbonise their economies meaningfully. Indeed, a more equitable and greener future needs Western economies—and China—to be much more ambitious about their emission-reduction targets.
With the next round of global climate talks scheduled for November this year, in Glasgow, India has its task cut out. It must fight back the pressure from developed economies that will focus on its current overall emission levels and it must organise to extract far more concrete emission-reduction and funding commitments from the developed nations/blocs. From larger, more timely commitment of funding through the Green Climate Fund to advancing their net-zero targets, India must go all out. The International Energy Agency’s decarbonisation pathway is indicative of the aggressive action needed; it should become the rallying point for developing nations to demand more from rich nations.