By Sharon Atieno
As Algeria becomes the latest victim of wildfires due to the changing climate, experts continue to warn that more effort is needed in reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases in order to limit global warming to 1.5 °C.
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows that if nothing is done, global warming will reach or exceed 1.5 °C in the next 20 years. This will result in increased intensity and frequent extreme climate events such as heavy rainfall, droughts, and heat waves among others.
“If we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we can reach global net zero carbon dioxide emissions around 2050, it is extremely likely that we can keep global warming well below 2 °C,” explained Carolina Vera, IPCC Working Group 1 Vice-chair during a briefing by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the UN Foundation.
“However, if global greenhouse gas emissions remains at today’s levels in the coming decades, we could reach 2 °C global warming by the middle of the century.”
The IPCC report notes that human influence is the main driver of climate change making extreme climate events more frequent and severe.
Human beings have been found to be responsible for hot extremes which have become more frequent and more severe, ocean warming since the 1970s and ocean acidification.
In addition, human influence contributed to change in frozen areas of the planet including 40% decrease in Arctic sea ice since 1979, global retreat of glaciers since 1900s and decrease in spring snow cover since the 1950s.
Also, the report notes that though some changes could be slowed and others stopped by limiting warming, some like increasing ocean temperatures, melting Greenland ice sheet and rising sea level are irreversible.
Over the course of this century, ocean temperature is expected to rise by two to eight times more than it increased in the late 70s while the melting Greenland and Arctic ice sheet will continue over thousands of years, the report notes.
In Africa, where the current share of global carbon emissions is low, at less than 5%, the report finds that the current increase in temperature increases exposure and vulnerability of the continent.
The report further indicates that rising temperatures in most parts of the continent are leading to frequent heat waves in different parts.
According to Youba Sakona, IPCC Vice –chair, Africa will experience frequent and intense climate extremes such as heat waves, heavy rainfall and drought. The Sahel region which is more prone to dry and severe desertification has been experiencing heavy rains, he said.
The report shows that the Sahel will experience much more heavy rain in contrast to Southern and Northern Africa which will be much drier. Also, the tropics will experience novel climate and sea level rise.
He noted that arid areas will also expand and grow as well as shift from where they are to upper parts of the continent. Cyclones like Idai which hit Mozambique, will also be frequent.
In addition, the changing climate in the continent will result in increased frequency and intensity of droughts, and intensified erosion in the coastal areas.
“While carbon dioxide is the dominant greenhouse gas and reaching net zero carbon dioxide is required, strong reduction in other greenhouse gas emissions are needed amongst them is methane reduction together with strong air pollution control to benefit climate and improve air quality,” Vera said.
The report is the sixth assessment of its kind since the panel was formed in 1988. This Working Group 1 report dealing with climate science is a first of a series of three reports which will be launched next year. The others will touch on impact, adaptation and vulnerability, as well as climate change mitigation.