Looming Climate Catastrophe

LEADING climate scientists and diplomats from close to 200 countries have begun meeting in Switzerland for a week to condense nearly a decade’s worth of scientific research into a 20 or so page warning about the existential threat of global warming and what to do about it. The synthesis report being prepared under the aegis of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN-appointed panel,  will be released on March 20. It will also be the most important, because it will provide the crucial science-based guidance that governments need to craft policies and goals to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement, the landmark 2015 pact aimed at curbing global warming, commits governments to limit the rise in average global temperatures to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to cap the increase at 1.5C. The report will provide roadmap for how to meet this goal and the best way to decarbonize the global economy, with some emphasizing the need to rapidly phase out fossil fuel use and reduce consumer demand, and others the potential of technological solutions. It will also provide a stark warning about the consequences of inaction. There are dire projections for health, the global food system, and economic productivity if no pre-emotive action is taken.  Even with temperature remaining under 1.8C half of humanity could, by 2100, be exposed to periods of life-threatening climate conditions arising from the coupled impacts of extreme heat and humidity.

The new IPCC report will follow its August 2021 report that warned of the far-reaching effects of climate change if no immediate measures were taken to remedy the damage already done. The world, the UN panel then said, will cross the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming mark in the 2030s, earlier than some past predictions. The report further said that human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years. Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities alone are responsible for approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming since 1850-1900 and the temperatures could continue to rise until 1950. The report revealed that the past decade was most likely hotter than any period in the last 1,25,000 years when sea levels were as much as 10 meters higher. The report caused a global alarm after its release.

There is thus an urgent need for the world to come together and take remedial measures to pre-empt the catastrophe and the COP26 summit did play an important role in this direction.  In Kashmir too, climate change has led to considerable changes in weather patterns. Triggering alarm bells is the slowly shrinking glaciers that are the source of the Valley’s water bodies. But the factors causing climate change are global in nature and so any effort to reverse the damage has to be backed by the world. And this should be done sooner than later. The time is running out fast.

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