Report confirms human activities drive climate change

09 August 2021
UN report renews calls for deep emissions cuts to avert catastrophic events

Human activities have unequivocally caused observed increases in well-mixed greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations since around 1750, according to a report published on 9 August by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report asserts that “the likely range of total human-caused global surface temperature increase from 1850-1900 to 2010-2019 is 0.8°C to 1.3°C, with a best estimate of 1.07°C”.

It adds that well-mixed GHGs contributed a warming that ranged from 1°C to 2°C, although other human drivers, principally aerosols, exerted a cooling effect of up to 0.8°C.

Human influence is also very likely the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and extremely likely to have contributed to the warming of the global upper ocean over the same timeframe.

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The report continues: "Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.

“Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since AR5.”

AR5 refers to the IPCC fifth assessment report on climate change delivered in 2013.

Five illustrative scenarios for climate change adopted by AR6, Source: UN-IPCC  

The Climate Change 2021 report (AR6), and the climate scientists who worked on it, warned of stark consequences based on the report’s findings unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHG emissions occur in the coming decades.

“Further [global] warming increases likelihood of extreme events,” says Valerie Masson-Delmotte, one of the report authors.

She cited as an example extreme events related to gradual sea level rise. “Extreme events that occur once per century will likely occur once to twice per 10 years by mid-century … so it is important for policy makers in all regions of the world to consider this.”

The report authors argue that with every additional increment of global warming, changes in extreme or catastrophic events continue to become larger.

IPCC issued the report roughly three months prior to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP) 26 summit taking place in Glasgow, Scotland.

Negotiators from 197 countries are expected to agree a “comprehensive, ambitious and balanced outcome that takes forward coordinated climate action” and resolves issued related to previous agreements such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), Kyoto Protocol (1997) and Paris Agreement (2015).

Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement has aimed to limit global warming in this century to below 2°C above preindustrial levels while pursuing the means to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

The agreement included commitments from all major emitting countries to reduce their climate pollution and for developed nations to assist developing countries in their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

READ: Decarbonising the region's economies

The majority of Middle East and North African countries signed and ratified the Paris Agreement, with the exception of Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, which have signed but not ratified it.

The US, under former President Donald Trump, withdrew from the agreement in 2020, but rejoined the treaty in January this year under President Joe Biden.

Mena countries such as Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE have some of the world’s highest CO2 emissions per capita due to a high concentration of hard-to-abate industries, small populations and energy subsidies.

However, most of them have also set ambitious targets to reduce emissions and launched programmes to support them.

The UAE 2050 Strategy, for example, aims for clean energy to account for a quarter of the country's total energy mix by 2030 and for the carbon footprint of power generation to be reduced by 70 per cent.

Middle East Energy Transition provides a comprehensive snapshot on how the shift away from fossil fuels is shaping investment and policy in the Middle East, and also at how the region is investing in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The report is of extremely high value to anyone investing in the energy sector in the region, as well as providing value to contractors, consultants and suppliers in the energy supply chain that are selling products and services to Middle East governments. Learn more about the report here

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