India Today - - UPFRONT - —Shougat Das­gupta

The world is head­ing over a cliff at a fu­ri­ous pace, con­firmed a much-an­tic­i­pated, com­pre­hen­sive United Na­tions re­port on cli­mate change. Re­leased on Oc­to­ber 9, and put to­gether by a panel of in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tists, the re­port ar­gued that the world needed to make “rapid and far-reach­ing” changes to limit global warm­ing. A dif­fer­ence of half a de­gree could mean more wild­fires, drought, poverty, and the death of 99 per cent of coral reefs, in­clud­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef, an ecosys­tem some 25 mil­lion years old. The re­port gives the planet barely a dozen years to limit the dam­age pre­dicted for decades into the fu­ture, if global warm­ing con­tin­ues at its cur­rent rate.

In­dia is par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to an­nual heat waves of the sort that led to the deaths of some 2,500 peo­ple in 2015. If global warm­ing is al­lowed to con­tinue unchecked, large swathes of north­ern In­dia, home to hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple, could be­come un­in­hab­it­able by the end of the cen­tury. Sci­en­tists are broadly in agree­ment that tem­per­a­tures should not be al­lowed to ex­ceed 1.5 de­grees cel­sius above what tem­per­a­tures were in the pre-in­dus­trial pe­riod up to roughly the mid-19th cen­tury. At cur­rent rates of global warm­ing, that tem­per­a­ture is pre­dicted to be reached any time be­tween 2030 and 2052. In the UN panel’s re­port, the con­se­quences of global warm­ing reach­ing two de­grees cel­sius above pre-in­dus­trial tem­per­a­tures are cat­a­strophic. The ac­tion re­quired is dras­tic, warns the re­port, given that the world is on course to ex­ceed pre-in­dus­trial tem­per­a­tures by around three de­grees cel­sius by 2100.

En­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Harsh Vard­han in­sists In­dia is on course to ful­fil its obli­ga­tions out­lined in the Paris Agree­ment, signed in 2016. But other coun­tries, most no­tably the US and Brazil, have ex­pressed scep­ti­cism. In fact, US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has vowed to pull his coun­try out of the agree­ment. Even if all coun­tries ad­here to the tar­gets they set them­selves in Paris, tem­per­a­tures will even­tu­ally rise two de­grees cel­sius above pre-in­dus­trial times, mak­ing the dooms­day sce­nar­ios out­lined in the lat­est UN re­port al­most an in­evitabil­ity. In­dia is

In­dia is com­mit­ted to power from re­new­able en­ergy, but the process needs to be ac­cel­er­ated

com­mit­ted to gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­ity through re­new­able sources rather than coal, for in­stance, but the process will now have to be ac­cel­er­ated. And the world will need to fol­low suit, un­til car­bon neu­tral­ity, or zero emis­sions, is reached by 2050 if the im­pact of cli­mate change is to be mit­i­gated. At the mo­ment, the global po­lit­i­cal will to meet such a strin­gent dead­line ap­pears to be lack­ing.

The UN re­port will be dis­cussed at a cli­mate change con­fer­ence in Ka­tow­ice, Poland, in De­cem­ber. Will our lead­ers ac­knowl­edge the scale of the dan­ger sci­en­tists in­sist we face? The stakes are only get­ting higher.

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