We Are On Fast Track to Climate Disaster!
Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.1 degree Celsius, greenhouse gas emissions must be curbed
On April 4, 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change( IPCC) released the third installment of the sixth report, "Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change". The first installment of the sixth report was released on August 9 2021, the second installment was released on February 28 2022.
The first two reports highlight the increase in the average temperature of the earth caused by human activities, its adverse effects on organisms, environment, earth, oceans and ecosystems. rising faster than previously thought, the global temperature has led to a sharp rise in the number of natural disasters, such as extreme heat and cold, short-term rainfall, droughts, floods, and hurricanes.
The third installment of the sixth IPCC report discusses numerous strategies to limit greenhouse gas emissions in different sectors. It also presents realistic calculations to stop global mean temperature increase by 1.5 degree Celsius.
According to the report, the measures taken so far to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are far below what is needed.
As a result, emissions of greenhouse gases are still increasing rapidly. According to records, the average temperature of the earth has risen 1.1 degree Celsius as compared to the Pre-Industrial Revolution Period. Emissions of greenhouse gases in 2010-2019 were higher than in any previous decade. Emissions of greenhouse gases in the decade 2010-2019 were 12 per cent higher than in 2000-2010, and 54 per cent higher than in the 1990-2000 decade. This, despite the IPCC’s repeated warnings that the time to limit dangerous global warming is running out.
If greenhouse gas emissions are not cut sharply and continue at the current rate, by the end of the century, the world could face a rise in temperature of 2.4 to 3.5 degree Celsius. This will force all the countries to bear the brunt of more natural calamities.
The budget for the remaining greenhouse gases is likely to expire before 2030, thus limiting global warming to the 1.5 degree Celsius limit of the Paris Climate Agreement. This sixth installment of the report also suggests that if the average global temperature rise is to be limited to 1.5 degree Celsius by the end of the century, then all the countries of the world should cut 43 per cent of their total emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030.
The report warns that we have very little time left, but it is still possible that we can do it, which requires swift action and determination. All the countries of the world still have options, all that is needed is will power. The United Nation Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that although the road is narrow and difficult, all nations must now work to save humanity.
We are on a fast track to climate disaster: major cities underwater, unprecedented heatwaves, terrifying storms, and widespread water shortages. This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. A team of scientists has said that the sixth report is a file of broken international climate agreements and empty promises that describe each promise sequentially. Although efforts to curb global warming began with the "Earth Summit" in Brazil in 1992, no meaningful steps have been taken so far.
The fifth report of the IPCC in 2014 found that no country in the world could escape the effects of global warming. It will hit all the countries, rich and poor, small islands and large continents. In the first and second installments of the sixth report, it is clearly stated that the rise in temperature is due to human activities and the worst hit are the poor people and the poor countries. After the release of the IPCC report in 2014, although all the countries of the world had pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, most have not paid any attention to it. Countries make promises and agreements at conferences, but refrain from putting them into practice.
The sources of energy must be rapidly changed. Efforts to replace coal, oil, gas, and diesel with renewable energy sources such as wind, water, and solar must be accelerated. China, the United States of America, and India should shut down their coal-fired power plants as they are currently emitting far more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world. The third installment of the sixth IPCC report offers some positives too, the cost of generating solar and wind energy has decreased by 85 per cent since 2010. If all the countries of the world produce energy from sun and wind instead of coal, then perhaps they will be able to control the rise in temperature.
The report suggests paying more attention to agriculture and forest conservation. All the countries should sow/plant crops in different regions of their country according to the local environment. In many places profitable crops are sown / planted that do not match the environment and natural resources of the area, resulting in an imbalance of natural resources and environment.
For example, the Government of India through its Minimum Support Price policy has imposed the paddy crop on Punjab to alleviate the shortage of food grains in the country, which is responsible for its rapidly declining groundwater table and increasing air pollution. The crop also releases methane gas into the air, which is more capable of heating temperature than carbon dioxide.
Forests are called the lungs of the earth because they release oxygen into the atmosphere and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In order to balance the natural environment, forests must cover 33 per cent of the area in each country. At the same time, care should be taken that the forest/tree species should be adapted to the local environment.
According to a 2018 IPCC report, humans have transformed 70 per cent of the earth through their activities to satisfy their cravings, with many ecosystems being wiped out and many on the brink of extinction. Therefore, all the countries should make every effort to maintain the existence of ecosystems.
The third installment of the sixth IPCC report has suggested necessary changes in land use practices, reduction of carbon emissions and pollution in industries, build low carbon buildings,and improvem means of transportation. Cities emit more greenhouse gases than villages, that is why they are also called ‘Heat Islands’. We need to reduce activities that consume more energy in cities.
Unnecessary electric lights should be turned off in homes as well as on the roadsides. Buildings in cities have more bricks with glass which requires more energy to keep them cool. Heated glass also releases more hot air into the atmosphere than wood and bricks. Therefore, buildings in cities must be redesigned.
Vehicles emit large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. According to the third installment of the sixth IPCC report, if the necessary modifications are not made in the present mode of transportation system , the emission of carbon dioxide is sure to increase by 50 per cent by 2050. The report suggests that governments could reduce one-fourth of the energy consumed in transportation by building car-free infrastructure such as pedestrian and cycling roads.
It is also important to mention here that if greenhouse gases emitted from the means of transport are to be reduced, then every country must make its public transport so efficient that people abandon using private vehicles. Instead of car companies, those that make public transport such as buses and trains should be encouraged by giving subsidies. Tax rates on private vehicles should also be increased.
In addition to the above suggestions, the report also suggested changes in eating habits. One of the major reasons for the change in land use is the growing trend of non-vegetarian food. This is largely responsible for deforestation to make room for livestock shelters and fodder. Livestock also release large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane gases into the atmosphere, which are warming the environment.
The report specifically states that high-income households account for 36 to 45 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, while low-income households account for only 13 to 15 per cent. According to this IPCC report, we now have very little time to save the environment. Therefore, we must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from various sectors. Energy should be generated from renewable sources instead of coal, gas and petroleum products.
Developed countries and high-income people need to make drastic changes in their way of life. According to the report, if the world's richest segment changes its energy consumption trend, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 40-70 per cent. We need to electrify public transport.
Developed countries are emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the developing countries. Therefore, they should rapidly reduce their emission of greenhouse gases with the help of technology. In order to provide financial and technical assistance to the poor and developing countries to compensate for the losses caused by climate change, developed countries should now generously help. All the nations of the world must unite and take swift action to stop the rise in temperature or else the earth and its inhabitants will be pushed towards an unpredictable future.
Dr. Gurinder Kaur is a former professor, of the Department of Geography, Punjabi University, Patiala.