“AAny further delay in anticipated concerted global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to ensure a livable and sustainable future for all. — IPCC GTII 2022.
The Sixth Assessment Round (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) focuses on assessing the impacts, vulnerabilities and necessary adaptation measures in the context of climate change. The report builds on the findings of the previous evaluation cycle (AR5 – published in 2014) as well as the contributions of Working Group I in AR6.
Collectively, it features the work of 270 lead authors, plus 675 contributing authors, from a total of 67 countries, received up to September 2021. For AR6, the published report placed a strong emphasis on interactions and interdependence between the three main drivers of the planet: climate, ecosystem and biodiversity, and human society.
It reviewed a voluminous amount of literature, including that based on climate model simulations, to describe the impact of observed climate change in the past and the projected risks of reaching different levels of warming at three different time periods in the future. (short term: 2021-2040, medium term: 2041-2060, long term: 2081-2100).
The report identifies that global temperature has already risen 1.09°C above pre-industrial levels. In the absence of an effective change, it will be difficult to limit the rise to 1.5°C. This clearly implies that the anticipated damage to biodiversity loss, tree mortality, species extinction and increased human mortality from heat and infection may be impossible to rectify even if global warming is reduced. later.
The report makes it clear that although climate change and global warming pose a universal threat, vulnerable habitats and the 3.3 to 3.6 billion people at risk are more likely to bear the brunt of it. In the current scenario, this high risk can be directly linked to non-climatic parameters such as poor socio-economic conditions, unsustainable land use, gender inequalities, demographic changes and patterns of colonialism. In some cases, additional risks also arise from poor adaptation.
The resulting impacts have already begun to manifest themselves in the form of increased episodes of forest fires, floods and heat waves. Furthermore, the report indicates that climate risks are already increasing in frequency, intensity and complexity, making them difficult to manage.
Multiple hazards, each with its own set of associated climate and non-climate risks, can occur simultaneously. These risks are bound to interact at some point, resulting in a cumulative and cascading effect, where each risk leads to a new one, possibly in a completely different sector.
Such a scenario has the potential to increase the magnitude of negative impacts, making the implementation of corrective measures more difficult. It also directs the conversation on climate change towards a greater need for climate-informed transboundary management and cooperation.
The report indicated the certainty with which a given impact can be attributed to climate change, thus increasing the credibility of the conclusions. It not only provides a comprehensive picture of the current and estimated future climate situation recognizing the value of a multifaceted and inclusive understanding, but it also takes into account all major areas relevant today (economic, technological, institutional, social, environmental and geophysical), including an independent study. the assessment of different geographical areas, which could prove valuable in developing solutions at the local level.
Considering subsequent findings, the report defined “climate-resilient development” as the way forward in the current fight against climate change. The suggested approach for climate-resilient development suggests the joint use of adaptation and mitigation measures to achieve sustainable development goals, where adaptation can help reduce risk and reduce vulnerability.
The report repeatedly discusses the role of adaptation in addressing climate change and highlights a range of actions that can be taken depending on the ecosystem service or social framework under threat.
Although adaptation is one of the most plausible options today, there is a limit to which a given species or ecosystem can adapt, so more stringent prevention and mitigation measures must be taken. taken as soon as possible.
Nevertheless, the adaptation solutions described in the report are sufficient as a starting point for immediate action, given that they are properly implemented. These solutions serve all dominant ecosystems and sectors, including terrestrial and marine ecosystems, urban and rural infrastructure, and energy systems.
Additionally, the measures have been proposed taking into account both Indigenous knowledge and scientific research, which further enhances their applicability and effectiveness while simultaneously addressing concerns about local representation and inclusiveness.
In addition to this, the report highlights gaps in current adaptation implementation. It shows that current adaptation measures are fragmented and small-scale. They are also unequally distributed between regions. It emphasizes the need for institutional frameworks and policies to ensure robust adaptation.
In this context, the report’s findings present a basis for further research on the topic, while identifying areas that need more attention, saving valuable time. Overall, the report is essential for developing a thorough understanding of the current and projected impacts of climate change.
The results may be eye-opening for individuals and institutions still unaware of the reality of climate change. The strength of the report lies in its emphasis on climate-resilient development, which is the need of the hour. Mitigation and adaptation measures taken in isolation are likely to be insufficient and ineffective to sustain the widespread and rapidly evolving impact of climate change.
The author is a researcher at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute and is based in Islamabad