CLIMATE REPORT: APOCALYPSE NOW?
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.