Code Red: Time to act on climate change

Code Red: Time to act on climate change

The report says that the average global temperature rise is likely to reach or exceed the 1.5 degrees Celsius benchmark

Arctic ice is melting and the snow cover over the mountains is disappearing. Credit: Reuters Photo

The United Nations’ Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has sounded yet another dire warning to the world about the consequences of unchecked global warming. Much of the data and evidence collected in its report, the observations that it has made, and the conclusions it has arrived at are all known. They have been noted for decades and have been seriously discussed in the last few years in various fora, but the warnings continue to be made. Regular reports from the IPCC and other agencies have kept updating the situation. The latest report is the first instalment of the sixth assessment of the state of climate change science and it has raised the pitch to new levels. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has termed the report as “code red for humanity’’ and described the alarm bells that it has sounded as deafening. 

The report says that the average global temperature rise is likely to reach or exceed the 1.5 degrees Celsius benchmark, and may even go to 2 degrees Celsius, in the next 20 years if immediate action is not taken to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions across the globe. Extreme climate events which have become more intense and frequent now are symptoms and results of climate change. The world has seen unprecedentedly strong cyclones, excessive rains, droughts and wildfires in recent years. Arctic ice is melting and the snow cover over the mountains is disappearing, triggering phenomena like more destructive floods and a rise in sea levels. The consequences of all this on plant, animal and human life will be catastrophic. When the balance between life and nature, which has evolved through centuries, is upset, the impact will be unpredictable. Life may not even have the time to find a new balance.

The report has been released ahead of the UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, which is intended to evolve a more effective global action plan. But five years after the Paris Agreement, there is hardly any progress. Promises made there are not being kept, and there is no consensus on the further course of action. While the entire world has to work together to reduce emissions, the greater responsibility rests with the developed world to make deeper cuts in emissions, transfer technology to developing countries, and finance the cost of mitigation and adaptation. But the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, which was accepted many years ago, is not practised, pushing the developing world to bear an unequal burden. The impact of climate change will be more on the poorer countries and the poorer communities. Hopefully, the warnings, as the one the IPCC has given, will be taken more seriously than before.