Human-induced global heating is a reality no one can ignore anymore. There are no ambiguities anymore. The threat is real and happening. The latest United Nations report on climate change paints a grim picture of a world that is inexorably moving towards a man-made apocalypse. ‘Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis’, the first part of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), evaluates the state of Earth’s climate and the impact on the planet and life forms. The most significant conclusion is that global temperatures have already risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times and that the 1.5-degree-Celsius threshold was likely to be breached before 2040. This would have a catastrophic impact on societies. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has rightly called the report “a code red for humanity,” and said it must “sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet.” Unless drastic steps are taken through an international consensus to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, global warming of 1.5 degrees will become inevitable. No country can now afford to continue the business-as-usual approach. For India, the forecast is grim. Increasing heat waves and droughts, rainfall events and a likelihood of more cyclonic activity are in store for the country and the subcontinent over the coming decades. The Southwest monsoon has declined over the past few decades because of rising aerosol emissions.
The avowed objective of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the international architecture to fight climate change, is to limit the temperature increase to within 1.5 degrees Celsius. A temperature rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius would result in catastrophic and irreversible changes that would make it difficult for human beings and other species to survive. The ongoing international efforts to control the climate crisis are not enough. The goals need to be reframed and redefined in view of the grave implications of climate change. What is alarming is that despite a global halt in economic activities due to Covid-19, the global mean temperature for the period January-October 2020 was around 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, dangerously close to breaching the 1.5-degree threshold. Already, the impact of high global mean temperature is evident in the form of extreme climate events, including heat, wildfires and floods. In India, high temperatures have had a devastating impact on communities and biodiversity. The country needs to move away from coal and invest in renewable energy to achieve the targets under the Paris Agreement. Though India has pledged to implement the protocols set by the Paris accord, it needs global support for green technology and resources up to $2.5 trillion in the 15-year period for climate action.
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