No, the COVID-19 pandemic did not clean up the environment. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane have all set new year-to-date records for atmospheric concentrations in both 2020 and 2021.
A group of over 14,000 scientists from all over the world have come together to declare a climate emergency. Accusing governments of not being able to stem “the overexploitation of the Earth,” the group called for immediate action as the planet approached the tipping point of irreversible climate change. The basis of their claims was a newly-published research that showed many of Earth’s vital signs were rapidly deteriorating.
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The study, published in the BioScience journal, found that 18 out of Earth’s 31 vital signs have reached worrying levels, setting new records in the process. These vital signs include data points such as greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean heat content and ice mass coverage.
“There is growing evidence we are getting close to or have already gone beyond tipping points associated with important parts of the Earth system,” said William Ripple, ecologist at Oregon State University and the co-author of the study.
The study comes at a time when the world is struggling with an onslaught of climate-related disasters, leading to widespread loss of life and livelihood.
While many believed that global lockdowns contributed to a better environment, the result shows that this was not the case. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane “have all set new year-to-date records for atmospheric concentrations in both 2020 and 2021.” The year 2020 was the second hottest year on record, with the hottest five years being between 2015 and 2020. Worse, 2021 is soon expected to join the list of the hottest years.
The Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets have melted to such a degree that their deterioration may be inevitable regardless of how well global emissions are controlled in the future.
"Given these alarming developments, we need short, frequent, and easily accessible updates on the climate emergency," the study stressed.
The authors of the study called for comprehensive and urgent measures to halt the global climate change. The authors have suggested six key areas that demand urgent action -- fossil fuel removal, decreasing presence of pollutants, restorative actions on ecosystems, switching to sustainable consumerism, moving away from indefinite growth models and stabilising the human population.
The study also highlighted three emergency responses that must be taken on an immediate basis. It suggested that the imposition of a carbon tax, rapid phasing out of fossil fuels, and maintaining and restoring carbon sinks were of vital importance.
“Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human overexploitation of the planet,” Ripple said.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)