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In a first, IPCC to list impact of climate crisis on mental health

Climate scientists and national representatives gathered on Monday for a virtual two-week conference to finalise the latest section of the sixth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is, for the first time, expected to also inform on the mental health impacts of the climate crisis.

“A part of the mental health challenge is apocalyptic fears among young generations. So, we have to be careful how we communicate the results of our science and whether we talk of collapsing of the biosphere and disappearance of mankind,” Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said during the opening ceremony of 55th session of the United Nations (UN)-backed body that collates latest scientific opinion on global warming

The report, which will have a summary for policymakers that the conference will review line by line, will cover economic, food security, biosphere, health and mental health impacts of the climate crisis. The summary will be published on February 28.

The IPCC in August last year released a comprehensive report on the physical science basis of climate change that influenced the Glasgow climate summit in November. The physics community was clear on what is happening so far and expected to happen in the coming decades, especially on the melting of glaciers and rise in sea levels, Taalas said.

“The growing trend of disasters is expected to continue at least till the 2060s, and sea level rise will continue much longer because we have already exceeded 420 ppm of CO2 concentrations,” said the chief of the UN weather agency. “If we have carbon removal technologies available, we could change that. So far that is not the case.”

In 1980, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere was around 340 parts per million (ppm), according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

Impacts of climate crisis are visible and clearly understood by heads of states, and they did not question the scientific information at the Glasgow conference, Taalas pointed out. “Africa, South Asia and Pacific Islands are very vulnerable when it comes to impacts of climate change,” he said.

The current sixth cycle of the assessment report is the most ambitious one in IPCC’s history, said Hoesung Lee, chair of the scientific body. Compared to its previous reports, the latest one will have more general and local information with focus on natural, social and economic sciences, Lee said.

In the next two weeks, policymakers from 196 countries and 270 scientists from 67 nations will scrutinise the summary for policymakers.

“The first working group report of the IPCC sixth assessment in 2021 quantified the physical changes in the past and future climate, due to increased greenhouse gas emissions. The second working group report will elaborate on the impacts and risks due to these physical changes and point out ways to reduce these risks through adaptation,” Roxy Mathew Koll, climate scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, said last week.

“South Asia, and particularly India, is already facing increased risks due to rising extreme weather events such as floods, landslides, and droughts, cyclones, heatwaves and cold waves, and a rising sea level. The dense population and low household income in the region will raise the vulnerability and risk that we are facing,” Koll had said. “Hence, we urgently need to embrace adaptive measures to build a climate-resilient, disaster-proof country, but that will require immediate policy and action.”

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