Author: Ayush Arya
Editor: Soumya Singhal
On 28 February 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] published the findings of its Working Group II [WGII] for Assessment Report 6 [AR6]. This instalment builds on previous works such as the AR5 and the contribution from WGI in AR6. WGII focuses on the impacts of climate change and assesses the vulnerabilities of human and natural systems exposed to climate change. It also looks at how adopting a more climate-conscious approach could reduce some of these vulnerabilities. However, the report also mentions how some irreversible impacts have pushed natural and human systems beyond their limits to adapt.
A Global Perspective
It has been observed that climate change due to human activities has led to extensive detrimental impacts and connected damage to nature and people. The report estimates that 330 to 360 crore people are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. A large proportion of ecosystems are vulnerable to both climate change and non-climate change drivers. There also exists an interdependence between human and ecosystem vulnerability. The report also acknowledges that the impact of climate change is not evenly spread over the globe. Differences in regional vulnerability are based upon factors such as “socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalisation, historic and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance.”
It has been found that global warming reaching the 1.5⁰ Celsius mark in the near-term (2021-2040) will lead to the inevitable increase in numerous climate-related hazards and bring to the fore many risks to ecosystems and humans alike. Near-term risks include loss of biodiversity in the forest, coastal, and marine ecosystems. The rise of sea levels would encroach on coastal settlements and infrastructure. Low-lying coastal ecosystems would be condemned to being submerged and lost. However, limiting the increase to 1.5⁰C would lead to significantly lesser projected losses and damages when compared to higher levels of warming. Nonetheless, it would not be enough to eliminate all risks.
The unsustainable development models prevalent in the world today are exposing people and ecosystems to the higher likelihood and severity of climate hazards in the future. Current levels of urbanisation have worsened the impacts and led to many challenges in places where services such as energy and water are already limited. Beyond 2040, much depends on the mitigation and adaptation actions taken in the near term. The 127 key risks identified for mid-and long-term impacts are much higher than what can be observed currently. Estimated negative impacts and the losses and damages go up with every point increase in global warming making it more imperative than ever to limit the extent of warming as much as possible.
India displays many characteristics of a nation that is highly vulnerable in the face of climate change and as such has been classified amongst the most vulnerable nations. The high inequity and prevalence of highly vulnerable sections within the population would leave many susceptible to climate hazards such as extreme rainfall, urban flooding, ineffective drainage and sanitation, and urban heat islands. Coastal areas are especially threatened by problems relating to land subsidence and rising sea level. Now, the world is at a point where mitigation of climate change is unlikely. Hence, India’s erstwhile strategy of prioritising mitigation needs to change soon. The AR6 report also suggests that the impact on climate has been overlooked or in cases found to be inadequate while planning for development.
Attempts at adaptation are sparse and reactive. They can also be wayward and fall within the realms of ‘maladaptation’ which can lead to more vulnerabilities, thereby affecting food and nutritional security in a country already rife with such issues.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2022). Climate Change 2022: Impact, Adaptation and Vulnerability. [Summary for Policymakers: Working Group II Contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report]. https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg2/pdf/IPCC_AR6_WGII_SummaryForPolicymakers.pdf
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Raghunandan, D. (2022, March 7). IPCC Report: National-Level Push to Mitigate Enormous Climate Impact Risks a Must for India. News Click. https://www.newsclick.in/IPCC-Report-National-Level-Push-Mitigate-Enormous-Climate-Impact-Risks-Must-India
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