In the wake of the 2023 Lancet Countdown on health and climate change, we explore the report’s key themes, and how publications…
by Madison Cason, Sabin Dotel, Mamadee M. Kamara, and Chandara Phat, students of climate change and sustainable development at Asian Institute of Technology Bangkok
On 5th April 2022, “The IPCC Report 2022: Is it code red for South Asia?”- a webinar organized by the School of Environment, Resources and Development, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT)- brought together scholars, scientists, experts, policymakers, and AIT students to discuss the recently released Working Group III (WGIII) contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), looking at ways to limit and prevent anthropogenic emissions that contribute to global warming. In their report, the IPCC experts have clearly outlined that rapid emission cuts in this decade are necessary to minimize the risk of exceeding a 1.5°C increase in global mean temperature.
Climate change knows no boundaries, it spares no nation or people; everyone faces its brutal consequences. As clearly highlighted in the WGIII report, agricultural production and productivity will be greatly impacted, which consequently translates to food insecurity and malnutrition. During the webinar, it was emphasized that the effects of climate change will be noticed by both urban and rural populations as countries will struggle with the problem of food insecurity. Increased weather events like drought, flood, fluctuation in rainfall patterns, pest and disease infestation will all affect agriculture production in many countries. The South Asian region is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, and, to tackle the climate crisis, regional cooperation must be developed to stand together at an international level. This must include ensuring that climate finance is provided to developing countries to further adaptation efforts and to increase the resilience of human and ecological systems to the negative impacts of climate change. At the heart of this must be a focus on climate justice, which should lead us to address the disproportionate effects of environmental change on people belonging to minority groups and of lower socioeconomic status.
The WGIII report states that the average annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the last decade were higher than any other decade in history and current global GHG emissions are 54% higher than 1990 emission levels. While the growth rate of the annual average GHG emissions has slowed down, it is still at unprecedented levels, and we are not on track to limit global warming to 1.5oC. As was echoed throughout the entire webinar, there is an urgent need for immediate action across all sectors. Unless global GHG emissions peak by 2025 and a reduction of 43% of global GHG by 2030 is achieved, we will not limit warming to 1.5oC. In fact, an increase of 3.2oC is more realistic when considering the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) pledged ahead of COP26.
Whilst South Asia has contributed only 4% of cumulative historical CO2 emissions, there is a clear need for South Asian countries’ to align their climate vision, adaptation and mitigation plans, coupled with the need for sufficient capital and resources for the implementation of the plans, as was strongly emphasized throughout the webinar. Furthermore, increased understanding of climate change impacts and the development of innovative technologies for GHG mitigation are imperative. Since the fifth Assessment Report in 2013, there have been significant advances in climate change knowledge, as well as improvements in technology that have enabled the costs per unit of renewable energy such as wind and solar, to decrease significantly- by 85% and 55% respectively. This makes mitigating GHG emissions from the energy sector more affordable. Whilst increasing affordability, the deployment of solar energy projects has increased 10-fold, while the adoption of another key technology, electric vehicles, has increased 100-fold. While this progress is notable, it is not enough. However, there are options available in all sectors to halve global GHG emissions by 2030.
Climate change has heightened our sense of insecurity about the future. As the effects of climate change become more pronounced over time, a key question is how prepared are we as young people to take on the challenge? What role can we play in the fight against climate change? Should we see ourselves as the protectors of our world against climate change? As students of climate change from AIT, we answer in the affirmative that the youth of today have a greater role to play in addressing climate change. Young people are becoming increasingly aware of the daunting challenges and threats posed by climate change. It is evident that today’s older generations have failed to preserve and protect the planet. This leaves the youth to question their commitment to upholding the principle of intergenerational equity. Consequently, young people must ensure that their voices are loudly heard across the world. They must demand accountability and justice from decision-makers. Now that IPCC AR6 has clearly stated that limiting global temperature to 1.5oC is almost out of reach due to the unprecedented increase in emissions, young people around the world must be more proactive in taking actions to protect their future. With the enormous potential young people possess, they must step up their efforts and leverage their abilities to expedite climate action through volunteerism, science, education, technology, community mobilization, and social engagement. The role of young people must be holistic, action-oriented, and purpose-driven; only then, can they be seen as superheroes against climate change.
We would like to acknowledge the immense contributions of Professor Anamika Barua, visiting Professor to AIT who ably coordinated the webinar as moderator and encouraged us to write this blog to share our perspective. Additionally, we would like to recognize the contributions of Professor Shobhakar Dhakal and Professor Joyashree Roy, both of the School of Environment, Resources and Development, AIT and Coordinating Lead Authors of WGIII – Chapter two and Chapter five respectively. To all the policymakers, experts, scholars, and students who attended the webinar, we acknowledge your valuable contributions as well.
Anamika Barua, Shobhakar Dhakal and Joyashree Roy are members of the editorial board of PLOS Climate.