Heralds of Climatic Change: Do we have until 2030?



Everything around us is our environment and every one of us is responsible for every inch of it. The environment is dying and climate change is our warning.

The burning of fossil fuels is one of the greatest causes of the increase in average temperature.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in its 2013 report about the role of human activities in climate change concluded that climate change is real and human activities, largely the release of harmful gases from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas), is the main cause of it.


How does climate change affect us?

Every facet of our life gets affected in one way or another by climate change. Climate change can lead to extreme weather events ranging from heatwaves, droughts, flooding, to winter storms, hurricanes, and wildfires.

The year 2019 concluded a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice, and a record increase in sea levels, driven by greenhouse gases produced by human activities. It was the second hottest year on record. The insufficient global commitments to reduce climate polluting emissions can cause the emissions to be on track to reach 56 Gt CO2e by 2030, over twice what they should be, according to World Meteorological Organization[1]. Disasters linked to climate and weather extremities have always been present, but they are becoming more frequent and intense as the world gets warmer. With heatwaves, droughts, typhoons, and hurricanes causing mass destruction around the world, about 90% of the disasters are now classed as weather and climate-related, costing the world economy 520 billion USD each year and as a result, 26 million people are pushed into poverty.


What do we need to do?

To prevent warming beyond 1.5°C, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% every year, from this year to 2030. 10 years ago, if countries took action on this science, governments would have needed to reduce emissions by 3.3% each year. Every year we fail to act, and consequently, the level of difficulty and cost to reduce emissions go up. (EGR, 2019)

We need to make changes in how we grow food, use land, transport goods, and power our economies to stand a chance against climate change. Some of these solutions may include improved agricultural practices, land restoration, conservation, and the greening of food supply chains. The use of renewable energy should not only be encouraged but should become mainstream in our lifestyle.[2]

In short, we needed to start yesterday, but now we will have to work overtime today to save the world we live in.


Paris Agreement

The nations agreed to a legally binding commitment in Paris to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and also offered national pledges to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is known as the Paris Agreement. The Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and their 169 targets aim to eradicate poverty in all forms and “seek to realize the human rights of all and achieve gender equality”.


“The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, provide a coherent, holistic framework for addressing these challenges, and their interconnections… They require member states to address the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in a balanced manner. Their implementation must embody the principles of inclusiveness, integration, and leaving no one behind.” – António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General


Countries are not on track to fulfil the promises they have made. Thus, came the need for a review of the pledges to achieve what was aimed. The updated Paris Agreement commitments will be reviewed at the climate change conference known as COP 26 in Glasgow in November 2021. At the core of this is the global agenda for 2030, the principle of universality: ‘Leave No One Behind’. Development, in all its dimensions, must be inclusive of all people, everywhere, and should be built through the participation of everyone, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.

The Government of India is strongly committed to the 2030 Agenda, including the SDGs, as evidenced by the statements of the Prime Minister and other senior ministers at the national and international meetings. India’s National Development Goals and its “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas” or “Development with all, and for all,” policy initiatives for inclusive development converge well with the SDGs, and India will play a leading role in determining the success of the SDGs, globally.[3]

The nations need to agree to achieve the aims of the Paris Agreement because every fraction of additional warming above 1.5°C will bring with it dire consequences, thereby threatening lives, food sources, livelihoods, and economies worldwide.


What happens with a 1.5°C rise?

With each degree centigrade rise, we edge towards our apocalypse. The last 4 years were the 4 hottest on record. According to the September 2019 World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, we are at least 1°C above pre-industrial levels, and close to what scientists warn would be “an unacceptable risk”. The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change calls for holding eventual warming “well below” 2°C, and for the pursuit of efforts to limit the increase even further, to 1.5°C. However, if we do not slow global emissions, temperatures could rise to above 3°C by 2100, causing irreversible damage to our ecosystem.


1. With a 1.5°C rise, over 70% of coral reefs will die, and at 2°C, over 99% of it will be lost.

2. Insects which are essential for pollination are likely to lose half of their habitats at 1.5°C and this will be almost twice as likely at 2°C.

3. The Arctic Ocean, being completely bare of ice caps in summer, would be a once per century likelihood at 1.5°C but this leaps to a once a decade likelihood at 2°C.

4. Sea-level rise will be 100 centimetres higher at 2°C than at 1.5°C.

5. Over 6 million people currently live in coastal areas vulnerable to sea-level rise at 1.5°C degrees, and at 2°C this would affect 10 million more.

6. The frequency and intensity of droughts, storms, and extreme weather events will likely increase, at above 1.5°C.[4]


Emergency

The briskly changing climate has driven hundreds of governments around the world to declare states of emergency in the year 2019 itself. About 800 million people live in places that have declared global warming an emergency. On January 1st, 2019, the Climate Mobilisation recorded just 233 declarations worldwide compared to the 1,288 in 2020. What these declarations have done is highlight the need for action and have reinforced more concrete efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nine nations including the US, Portugal, Argentina, Bangladesh, and Canada decided that the threat of climate change warranted an emergency declaration.

The effects of climate change are as loud as glaciers, and ice sheets in polar and mountain regions are already melting faster than ever, causing sea levels to rise. Almost two-thirds of the world’s cities with populations of over five million are located in areas at risk of sea-level rise, and almost 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 km of the coast, and if this continues entire districts of New York, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, and many other cities would find themselves underwater within our lifetimes, displacing millions of people.


Conclusion

What we need is not just policies but the cooperation of every human being to contain climate change. To make a difference, all of us need to make small changes to our lifestyle. Alone we are strong but together we are indestructible.

[1] https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/climate-change/facts-about-climate-emergency [2] https://www.un.org/en/un75/climate-crisis-race-we-can-win [3]https://in.one.un.org/page/sustainable-development-goals/#:~:text=The%20Government%20of%20India%20is,at%20national%20and%20international%20meetings. [4] https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

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