Preventing climate change requires a shift in society, says UN panel

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  • Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released its ‘special report’ on the impact of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • The report focuses, in particular, on the impact of climate change on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and measures to eradicate poverty.
  • In their recommendations, they highlight that temperatures can only be kept in control if policy change is supplemented by changes in society.
The dangers of climate change are no secret, especially with scientists recently putting forward the possibility of climate change hurtling towards a ‘ Hothouse Earth’ situation. But, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that it’s possible to prevent averages global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.

But for it to work, things are going to need to change. Drastically.

In order to meet the target put forth by the Paris Agreement of 2015, the world would need to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% before 2030 and culminate a net-zero emission level by 2075.

‘Net’ zero emissions doesn’t imply no emissions at all. It just means that what greenhouse gas emissions do occur, they’re not in excess of what can be absorbed by nature or technological interventions.

Climate change alone isn’t enough

In order for sustainable development to take place, and for the temperature to stay below a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase, it will need to be supplemented by fundamental societal and system transformations.

The report recognises that a shift in society is coupled with ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals differs from nation to nation and from region to region, depending on the requirements. But, if social change and equity aren’t kept at par while making environmental changes, then the poor and the disadvantaged face a grave risk of being worse off.

The IPCC lists five integrated ‘reasons for concern’ (RFCs) that summarise the impact of climate change across various regions and sectors. Unique and threatened systems are the most vulnerable to the effects of increasing temperatures. Even keeping within the limits of temperature change, that segment will still face an impact.

Adapting to the change in temperature will be easier if the temperature increase is kept within 1.5 degrees Celsius and not allowed to snowball to 2 degrees Celsius. However, if the former situation occurs, there are certain limits to adaptation when it comes down to some human and natural systems.

Southeast Asia, in particular, is vulnerable to being at a higher risk of increased flooding related to sea-level rise, increased incidences of heavy participation and a one-third decline in per capita crop production.

Tropics, as a whole, could face an accumulated heat-wave that lasts up to 3 months.
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