On 9 August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the Sixth Assessment Report on Climate Change.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the report as a ‘code red for humanity’.
Scientists have reported changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system. Human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land with the consequences of widespread and rapid changes to the Earth’s climate.
The report shows that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for global warming and will reach or exceed 1.5 degrees C of warming in the next two decades. The only way to limit this warming is to reduce global Greenhouse Gases (GHG) drastically from 2020 onward and reach net zero GHG emissions by mid-century. Scientists emphasise that we cannot exceed temperature warming over 1.5 degrees Celsius as it will cause catastrophic climate impacts that will negatively affect our environment.
The continuous warming of the climate brings about changes that will have a significant effect on ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on it. This will affect rainfall patterns and bring about continuous sea-level rise throughout the 21st century that will contribute to more flooding and coastal erosion. More frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduction in oxygen levels can also be expected.
Abnormally high sea and ocean temperatures are a great concern for coastal fishing communities whose livelihoods depend on fishing on their coast. The rise in temperature will result in the migration of fish species and disruption of ecosystems. The impact climate change has on the environment will directly impact the lives of vulnerable people dependent on natural resources for their livelihood.
Scientists have emphasised the need for immediate, rapid and large-scale reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. South Africa welcomes the IPCC report as stated by Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy. The minister has committed to help the global cause of addressing climate change and the rising temperature by submitting South Africa’s “revised Nationally Determined Contribution to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to the UNFCCC ahead of COP 26”.