By: Nadashree M.K.
How would our lives be in a world which is completely distinct from the current one? Well, each of us imagines those worlds in different ways. But the world(s) we are going to see might happen very soon and it won’t be a pleasant one.
Changing World and Climate
The world has been discussing extensively the phenomenon of climate change in the past decades. Rapid industrialisation and population explosion have impacted our planet in the worst ways. Since then, the international community has joined together to adopt various policies and frameworks. From the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the recent Paris agreement, participating nations commonly agreed on reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and regulating global warming. As per the Paris Agreement of 2015, the signatories agreed on “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.” Thereafter, nations have collectively put efforts into achieving this goal. But, accomplishing these goals is not an easy task. Surprisingly, ‘stay at home’ restrictions imposed by the governments due to the outbreak of COVID-19 reduced atmospheric pollution. But this didn’t change the overall situation. Glaciers are still melting, atmospheric temperature and sea level keep rising. Though the difference between the targets mentioned in the 2015 Paris Agreement is just 0.5°C, it is a big deal.
Different Worlds, Different Lives
Climate activists have been protesting to limit the global warming temperature to 1.5°C. But is it an easy target? Before that, let us look into how 1.5°C rise, 2°C rise and 3°C rise can change our planet. According to data collected by the Carbon Brief, by 2100, a rise of 1.5°C and 2°C can increase the sea level by 48cm and 56 cm respectively. This further increases to 59 cm and 81 cm correspondingly by 2300. This leads to the melting of ice caps, ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, thermal expansion and water shortage. Marine heatwaves, and ocean acidity are also on the other side. By 2300, the area of thawed permafrost at 1.5°C rises is 4.8m km 2 ,it is 6.6m km2 at 2°C rise. The rising temperature dramatically decreases the snow extent in the northern hemisphere.
Hot days would increase up to 25% at a 2°C rise. Just think how this would be at 3°C rise! The number of the population facing heat waves every five years would also surge. Frequency of warm and cold weather conditions over land would also be extreme. The frequency of rainfall extremes over land could be 36% at a 3°C rise. Rainfall intensity at 1.5°C rise and 2°C rise are 2% and 4%. The average drought length (in months) would be 2 months, 4 months and 10 months at each rise. Water scarcity due to drought could also be intense. The global population could be exposed to tropical cyclones and floods, especially in coastal areas. These factors further result in a decline in crop yields and loss of species. Global per capita income could decline by 8% at 1.5°C rise and 13% at 2°C rise. Transmission of deadly diseases like malaria could rise by 19% at 1.5°C rise and 27% at 2°C rise.
Targets Are Not Easy as Pie
The 0.5 difference between 1.5°C rise and 2°C rise could be catastrophic especially in the most vulnerable regions of the planet. Though scientists and experts were able to convince the policymakers to limit global warming within 1.5°C rise, it was the special report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-IPCC which threw light on the worst impacts of 2°C rise. However, achieving the target mentioned in the Paris Agreement is not an easy task. There is still a lack of political will and coordination among the leaders in attaining these targets. Slow progress in implementing action plans is another challenge. There has been little reduction in global emissions. It is found that there has not been a 15% annual fall in global emissions anywhere in the plant.
It is astounding to see nations blaming each other for the climate crisis while no one is taking an active step in preventing the future crisis. Four years since signing the Paris Agreement hardly any change can be seen around us. The disastrous Australian wildfires and recent floods in Western Europe show us there is a prevailing climate emergency and the moment to act is right now!