Of late, the scariest thing to watch on television is the weather round-up. From devastating floods in China and Germany to heatwaves in the United States and Canada and heavy rains and landslides in several parts of India, the world has been witnessing extreme weather events that are consistent with changing climate around. It is worrying that the weather is running amok, and the extreme fluctuations are happening faster than the previous most pessimistic estimates. Over the last one month, India has seen several rain-related extreme weather events. Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi have been bearing the brunt of torrential rains and floods. The wayward weather events come as warning signals of a surging climate crisis and a compelling reminder that the country is ill-equipped to tackle many of its effects, such as urban flooding and flash floods. The poor urban infrastructure routinely stands exposed every time there is flooding. While several States have made some proactive efforts in this regard, the overall direction and focus of the country’s development plans are marked by unregulated construction, even on flood plains. This shows an utter disregard for natural topography and hydro-geomorphology and poor-quality affordable housing. The extreme weather events are not unique to India but are occurring across the world, a largely man-made tragedy. 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.
The recent images of Nature’s fury have an apocalyptical ring to them. Heatwaves are getting hotter. Forests are ablaze. Floods are obliterating. A massive iceberg broke off from Antarctica. While Germany suffered its worst flooding in living memory, the deluge in Henan Province in central China was so fierce that it affected three million people and London faced unprecedented flooding. Major heatwaves have unleashed misery in Scandinavia, Siberia and the Pacific Northwest in the United States and wildfires ripped through parts of America and Canada. 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 above which scientists warn of catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis. In fact, this was the threshold the Paris Climate Agreement had warned about. 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.
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