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IPCC: The Physical Science Basis. “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean & land”

By August 12, 2021 No Comments

On Monday 9th August 2021 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced it’s latest report on how climate change is intensifying.

We are all keenly aware of the impact of climate change all around us. The Covid19 pandemic being spread by excessive human global movement. Wildfires burning across Turkey, Greece & California. Extreme temperatures in Northern America. Our UK Summer being the wettest & warmest in years. The list goes on.

However, the IPCC Working Group 1 report Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, has unequivocally cited human activities for at least 1.1° C of warming since 1850-1900, & finds that averaged over the next 20 years, that global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming (1)

According to the latest IPCC report, Scientists are now observing changes in Earth’s climate, in every region across the entire climate system. These changes are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, & some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years. (1)

The report projects that in the coming decades climate changes will increase in all regions. For 1.5°C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health, the report shows. (1)

  • Climate change is intensifying the water cycle bringing more intense rainfall & associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.
  • Climate change is affecting rainfall patterns.
  • Coastal areas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion.
  • Further warming will amplify permafrost thawing, and the loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, & loss of summer Arctic sea ice.
  • Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, & reduced oxygen levels have been clearly linked to human influence.
  • For cities, some aspects of climate change may be amplified, including heat (since urban areas are usually warmer than their surroundings), flooding & sea level rise in coastal cities.

“Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai. (1)

This is a stark report with an equally stark projection. The report cites that to reduce advancing anthropogenic climate change & reach net zero, limiting human activities which are responsible for damaging levels of CO2 & other GHG emissions is going to need to be adopted globally.

However, there lies some seemingly unfathomable challenges ahead if the timetable for change is to not only be adhered too on a planetary scale, but that all nations across all continents will need to not only pledge to reduce their emission, but to act on these pledges.

Thus far certain countries do not seem to be making the relevant adjustments to their CO2 emissions & are in fact, in a post-Covid context, actually increasing them to pre-pandemic levels. China, the USA & India being the largest emitters of CO2 & other GHG’s linked to advancing global climate temperature shifts, are all responsible for reducing their emissions, to help generate some kind of planetary balance.

However, in June 2021 we reported on how China’s emissions have superseded pre-Covid levels & seem to be advancing at an alarming rate.

According to a new Carbon Brief report China’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have grown at their fastest pace in more than a decade, increasing by 15% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021.

The post-pandemic surge means China’s emissions reached a new record high of nearly 12bn tonnes (GtCO2) in the year ending March 2021. This is some 600m tonnes (5%) above the total for 2019. The CO2 surge reflects a rebound from coronavirus lockdowns in early 2020, but also a post-Covid economic recovery that has so far been dominated by growth in construction, steel and cement. (2)

In the first quarter of 2021, Chinese emissions from fossil fuels & cement production have grown by 14.5%, relative to the same quarter of 2020. Even against the pre-pandemic first quarter of 2019, January-March 2021 posted growth of 9%, showing that the increase this year is not only a rebound from the impact of lockdowns in 2020.

The latest increase helped push China’s emissions to a new record high of nearly 12GtCO2 in the 12 months to March 2021, as shown in the chart below. This is nearly 600MtCO2 (5%) higher than the total in 2019, which was unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic. (2)

However, what seems to be more alarming is that despite the USA’s pledges & President Biden’s Climate Summit hosted in April 2021; some countries are still not necessarily prepared to make the relevant adjustments to their emissions, by seeming to be focussing on sustainability in energy production.

Reuters reported in March 2021 that India’s energy consumption is projected to grow more than any other country over the next two decades. Despite pledges from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be able to produce 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030; a source involved in the Indian Government discussions told Reuters “We may not be able to commit ourselves to net zero emissions, it is a delicate problem,” & that India will instead stick to the Paris pledge to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030. (3)

However, in a more recent report from July 2021, the new Indian Power Minister claimed that India, in line with the Paris Agreement pledge of producing 40% electricity of its total capacity from non-fossil sources by 2030 were already at already at “39% & if you add the capacities under installation it’s already 48%. We are way beyond our NDC [nationally determined contributions] pledges,”

Despite the pledges from two of the worlds largest CO2 & GHG emitters to reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement expectations & to be striving towards renewable energy; the timescales presented by the new IPCC report to dramatically reduce emissions do not seem to be going to be met by China & India (there are other countries whose emissions are as concerning on a global scale)

Sadly, economies & financial supremacy still seem to be the driving force behind the emissions spikes we continually see & economic dominance seems to be outweighing the needs of planet Earth & the needs of the humans who inhabit it. The IPCC report should be a global wake up call, but one has to wonder if the call has come too late.

Written by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2