Climate Code Red – What the IPCC Report Means for India


Authored by: Ankita Tripathi, Soumya Singhal, Arushi Raj

Edited by: Riya Singh Rathore

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], the apex climate change scientific body, has released its sixth assessment report (AR6) on climate change and it contains some grim news.

What does the report say?

Those who lived through 2011-2020 witnessed some of the highest temperatures, lowest Arctic Sea ice area, glaciers retreating, agriculture and ecological droughts, erratic and extreme weather, and increased cyclonic activity. The IPCC report warns that this will worsen as temperatures rise by more than 1.5 celsius in next 20 years and more than 2 degrees Celsius during the 21st Century leading to irreversible damage. Global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900, than in any century in the last 3,000 years. CO2 concentrations today are the highest they’ve been in 20 lakh years, of which humans emitted 2.4 lakh crore tonnes since the late 1800s. The natural land and ocean carbon sink, which absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere, has become less effective. This suggests that emissions by human activity surged beyond the ability of natural processes to keep the greenhouse gases in check. 

What can we expect in the future?

The report predicts that current global warming trends will devastate every part of the planet. For 1.5 degrees celsius of global warming, there will be an increase in heat waves, longer warm seasons, and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, occurrences of heat waves, especially with an intensity exceeding the threshold for agriculture and health, will increase. Ocean warming is certain and could range from 2 to 4 times the 1971-2018 temperatures to an astounding 4 to 8 times the temperature. Ice sheet will continue to melt due to warmer ocean levels and would rise by 2 to 3 meters even if the warming is maintained at 1.5°C. Further warming will exacerbate permafrost thawing and loss of seasonal snow cover. 

Over the 21st century, the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctic ice sheet will continuously lose ice and the Arctic is likely to be sea ice-free at least once before 2050. Moreover, IPCC suggests that coastal regions will experience continued sea level rise, leading to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas as well as coastal erosion. Besides this, climate change is also transforming the global water cycle which worsen both rainfall/flooding and droughts. Tropical cyclones will become  more frequent and so will forest fires. The report projects that climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth will also grow.

What does it mean for India?

Indians will experience more frequent and intense heat waves, increased mean precipitation, and extreme monsoons during the 21st Century. The IPCC report observed that the Indian Ocean has warmed faster than global average and surface temperature over the Indian ocean is likely to increase by 1°C to 2°C. Although the Karakoram glaciers have not recorded any major retreating trend, snow cover has reduced in the Hindu Kush Mountains. In recent years, India has observed significant rise in temperature and erratic rainfall patterns leading to flood like situations. Given the bleak prospect of our future, it’s time to overhaul the current ‘normal’ and adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles that ensure the survival of the human race.