UN's IPCC climate report coming out this week: Here’s all you need to know

The IPCC report leads up to an international climate convention in December, the Talonoa Dialogue.

The largest international body that studies climate change and its impacts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is planning to release a report on 8 October about where we – the globe – currently stand with global warming, and the projections for warming levels this century.

It releases amidst a lot of controversy and concern from experts about the degrees of warming this century. This is, compared to limits set by the previous major international agreement on global warming levels, namely, the Paris Agreement.

What is the Paris agreement?

On assessing the trend of rising temperatures and its impact worldwide, 270 countries came together at the ‘Paris Accord’ in 2015 with one objective: create an agenda to limit the rise in global temperatures.

Researchers, climate experts and political leaders from around the world deliberated warming levels, focus areas and division of responsibility.

UNs IPCC climate report coming out this week: Here’s all you need to know

Celebrations at the close of the Paris Accord in 2015. Image: Flickr

The result was the Paris Agreement, in which all 270 countries – including the largest contributors to global carbon dioxide emissions, China, US, EU and India – came to an agreement to set the warming limit of 1.5 degree Celcius, and cap it at 2-degree Celcius.

What was the controversy surrounding the Paris Agreement?

The agreement was hotly contested because the benefits to keeping the levels of warming to 1.5 degree Celcius were global, but the pledges made by individual countries in the agreement were dictated by their own governments. Both the responsibility to follow through – and the consequences of not doing so – fell upon the countries themselves, and no penalty was agreed upon as per the agreement.

By 2017, it became clear that the goal set in Paris was ambitious and unrealistic based on the trend. Then, the US pulled out of the agreement, citing that the agreement “disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries” according to a BBC report.

File photo of Donald Trump. AP

Donald Trump was criticised a great deal for announcing that US will back out of the Paris Agreement. AP

While no other countries have followed suit, many are struggling to meet the goals set in Paris.

“The pledges countries made during the Paris climate accord don’t get us anywhere close to what we have to do,” Drew Shindell, a climate expert at Duke University and one of the many authors of the IPCC report, said to Washington Post.

“They haven’t really followed through with actions to reduce their emissions in any way commensurate with what they profess to be aiming for.”

The IPCC report

This week, hundreds of climate researchers invited by the United Nations have convened in Incheon, South Korea to evaluate (independently of the Paris Accord) their findings about the global trend of warming really is.

An image from the IPCC meeting in September, 2013. Image: Flickr

An image from the IPCC meeting in September, 2013. Image: Flickr

This new report will lead up to another international climate meeting in December – the “Talonoa Dialogue”.

At Talonoa, member-countries of the Paris Accord are expected to reconvene in the hopes of course-correcting after the Paris Agreement, and possibly set realistic objectives and strategies based on the IPCC report’s findings.

Leaked early drafts of the IPCC report

On 27 June, an early draft summary of the IPCC report was leaked to the Climate Home News, according to the Washington Post report, and said that there was a “very high risk” of the warming exceeding 1.5 Celcius.

second leaked draft, also leaked to Climate Home, revised what the previous summary claimed, instead said “there is no simple answer to the question of whether it is feasible to limit warming to 1.5 Celcius..” and that “feasibility has multiple dimensions that need to be considered simultaneously and systematically."

There is a lot riding on the IPCC in terms of global climate change policy, and both these reports highlight the contrast in positions that different experts have taken in recent years.

Why the IPCC report matters

While researchers are divided about what rise in temperature is an acceptable goal to set, the IPCC report, due to release on Monday, 8 October, will be a product of the week-long deliberations in Incheon and the premise for the Talonoa Dialogue later this year.

With the powerful political and environmental implications the report could have, there’s a significant challenge ahead of the IPCC council.

Representational image. Getty

Representational image. Getty

In charting such a trajectory for global warming, there is the key factor that it takes a decade for the buildup of carbon dioxide in the environment to show its influence on the planet’s temperature, a Vox report points out.

A trajectory of 1.5-degree Celsius warming would demand reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

The more time spend without implementing the necessary measures to curb warming, the more drastic the eventual strategies will have to be.

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