Earlier this month, the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out with a report that looked at the implications of a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in average temperature across the world. The prognosis is dire. The findings say that unless the collective world leadership does something about climate change, there is going to be an environmental catastrophe, that has profound social and political consequences.
The report calls into question the earlier targets for controlling temperature rise above the pre-industrial level set by the Paris Accord, and implores the world governments to take action before it is too late.
Since the elevation of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States, climate change efforts have been majorly impacted. He has been a climate change denier, claiming it is a hoax.
In 2012, he had famously tweeted “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” After he became President, one of his first acts was to announce that the United States would pull out of the Paris Accords – an agreement that bound nations of the world to try and limit temperature rises about the pre-industrial level to between 1.5 degrees and 2°C. However, the IPCC report is so scary in the outcomes it spells out, that even Mr Trump seems to have been shaken enough to declare he no longer believes climate change is a hoax.
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The IPCC has been sounding alarm bells on climate change for the best part of three decades. Set up in 1988, the IPCC along with Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. In 2016, smaller island nations afraid of being drowned by the rising seas, asked the IPCC to investigate the impact of the rising temperatures. The IPCC agreed to provide a Special Report by 2018.
In this report the IPCC has looked at two scenarios. The first is the rise in global temperatures by 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. In the IPCC’s view, human activities are likely to cause the temperature across the world to rise in the next decade, if we are not lucky; and in about 30 years if we do slightly better. Already, the Arctic rate of warming is higher than normal, that will increase further. As will droughts, fires, and dying out of species. The second scenario is the rise in global temperature by 2°C – also a very real possibility the way humans is producing and consuming. The impact of this is drastically worse.
The bottom line is that a 2°C rise over pre-industrial levels, as stipulated in the Paris Accord, no longer provides a liveable option for future generations. The IPCC has strongly suggested that the world needs to keep the temperature rise well below 1.5 degrees over the pre-industrial temperatures. For example, it says, “limiting global warming to 1.5°C, compared to 2°C, may reduce the proportion of the world population exposed to a climate-change induced increase in water stress by up to 50 percent,” So the world has a new target – less than a 1.5-degree increase.
Over populated, agriculture dependent nations with a large coast line, like India are likely to face the most damage from rising temperatures. As a large proportion of 1.3 billion people come out of poverty, their consumption and energy requirements are going to increase, resulting in carbon emissions. The government must figure how to ensure lower emissions while guaranteeing the robustness of poverty alleviation problems. India is already the third largest electricity producer in the world, most of it coming from non-renewable sources. Renewable energy forms around 16 percent of India’s energy mix, that share needs to increase drastically. Capacity needs to be built on a rapid footing to decrease the dependence on coal.
While it is tackling the energy mix, the Government also needs to put in place policy for a more energy efficient future, in terms of consumption. Be this in terms of hastening the phasing out of fuel cars, and introduction of EV cars; or the reduction in plastic, or the generation and disposal of waste.
There is a window of opportunity of about a decade for India, and the rest of the world, to take some drastic action. There is no time for a gradual shift over to a more sustainable way of living. It is going to be sharp brake on the way things are done now, as governments tackle emissions. And, it is necessary that the Government starts acting now, to ensure a habitable future. The price of not doing so is ruination – food shortage, water shortage, famines, large tracts of disappearing coastal land, and social disturbance.
Harini Calamur writes on politics, gender and her areas of interest are the intersection of technology, media, and audiences.
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