A landmark international report warned of the continued human impact on the Earth causing widespread and rapid changes to oceans, ice, and land systems. The current state of the climate system is “unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years,” according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released on Monday.
The IPCC Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, provided the clearest and most comprehensive assessment to date of the warming of the atmosphere, oceans, and land.
The Working Group I report is the first instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed in 2022.
Samir Tantawi, Climate Change Senior Consultant and project manager of Egypt’s Fourth National Communication for UNFCCC, said the report included a number of facts and expectations based on observations, measurements, and the use of mathematical models in forecasting the possible effects of climate change.
Climate scientists have monitored changes in climate in every region on Earth and in all climate-related systems, including some unprecedented changes over thousands and hundreds of thousands of years.
According to the report, emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C during the last ten years of warming since 1850-1900. In 2020 the annual mean temperature was 1.2 C above the normal. The averaged temperature estimate over the next 20 years is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming.
Tantawi added that although the report indicated that some of these changes are irreversible, the world still has an opportunity to save the planet from catastrophic climatic effects that affect all climate-related systems.
And that is through a rapid and continuous reduction of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, and without taking these measures, it will not be possible to reach the goal of reducing the average temperature of the atmosphere below 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.
“The report reiterated the fact that the previous AR5 report emphasised that changes in climate are mainly caused by anthropogenic – man-made – interventions. Continuing global warming is expected to have negative impacts on the hydrological cycle including variability in rainfall increases in some areas causing floods and decreases in other areas causing drought and aridity.
With regard to North Africa and the Middle East, the climate change expert stressed the importance of taking the report’s forecasts seriously. The report predicted an accelerated increase in temperature, an increase in extreme heat waves, a decrease in extreme cold waves, and an increase in the rates of marine heat waves in the region.
The report also confirmed previous expectations regarding sea level rise during the past three decades and that it is expected to continue rising, which increases the chances of marine flooding and the inundation of some low-lying coastal areas, and an increase in rain rates in tropical regions of Africa and a decrease in North Africa and the Mediterranean basin. As well as a decrease in wind speed with an increase in the rates of forest fires as a result of drought and aridity.
The climate change expert believes that the one who bears the costs of climate change is always the poor, developing and least developed countries. Most of the negative effects of climate changes are for those countries, whether because of their geographical location or the size of their economies that do not bear violent shocks and lead to the collapse of these economies. The economy of North Africa and the Middle East is expected to be affected by the loss of fertile land, infrastructure and other industrial projects.
Tantawi points out the need for the development plans of each country to include a basic axis of preserving the environment and moving towards non-polluting sources in power generation – such as renewable energies – and reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, especially coal, while giving a competitive advantage to the economy based on clear environmental sustainability criteria through financial incentives and tax and customs exemptions to encourage investment in areas that preserve the environment and reduce or prevent emissions.
“The findings of the report reflect the reality on the ground, the frantic race between industrialised countries during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the rapid development processes that followed the world wars without planning or commitment to environmental conservation standards, and during the 20th century between rapidly developing countries,” he said.
He further explained that these countries are doing on industrial and developmental activities that require the generation of large quantities of energy from cheap sources, especially coal and petroleum, with excessive cutting of forests in some areas, or the loss of large areas of forests as a result of natural fires or an effective action, all of these factors combined led to a rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions and thus atmospheric temperature rise.
Regarding his expectations for the upcoming conference for the parties in Glasgow, UK in November (COP26), Tantawi anticipated that it will not come up with decisive and firm decisions in line with the scientific facts referred to in international reports.
“I hope that the countries of the world – through their negotiating delegations participating in the conference – listen to the voice of reason and belief that we do not have an alternative planet,” he concluded, hoping for reaching clearly binding agreements according to the capabilities of each state.