We are on a borrowed time and the countdown has already begun!
The latest report on climate change by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is quite damning and states unambiguously that until a radical approach is taken to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and reduce the rise in Earth’s temperature to preindustrial levels (less than 1.5 degree Celsius).
At 2C, we will witness more scorching hot summer days, deaths due to heatwaves and an increase in the cases of wildfires.
The impact on ecology would be disastrous. Insects that are necessary for pollination of crops and plants would lose their habitats at 2C. Most corals would be gone at 2C temperature range, but have a 10% probability at 1.5 C.
Marine life is also bearing the brunt of increased ocean acidity and reduced oxygen levels due to climate change. That the difference of just half a degree would make such an enormous impact can be best understood by the case of sea ice. At 1.5, sea ice-free summers in the Arctic would be there once in a century. But an increase of another 0.5 degree would mean that there would be sea ice-free summers every 10 years.
The report is unprecedented as it has given an ultimatum of 12 years to check climate change or be prepared to face dire consequences, including natural calamities and homelessness. It is for the first time that a report has given so less time.
Scientists from more than 40 countries who authored the report believe that beyond 1.5 degrees even a half degree rise in annual temperature would be catastrophic.
The half-degree difference mark may seem negligible but it would prevent corals from being completely eradicated and reduce pressure on the Artic.
At the Cop 21 in Paris, it was pledged by UN member states to reduce the annual temperature to less than 2 degree Celsius by the year 2050. But this report has stated that we will have to buckle up and immediately plan a new course of action without any further delay.
The report, which is a result of around 6,000 studies, says that at 1.5 degree, the population exposed to inundation would reduce by almost 50%. Food scarcity too would be significantly reduced and so would be homelessness due to disasters in the developing countries.
IPCC believes that for achieving the 1.5C target we will have to increase reforestation on a large-scale, radically reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and increase the use of alternative renewable energy sources and replace current vehicles by electric vehicles.
Carbon pollution would have to be slashed by around 50% by 2030 and would have to be wiped out totally by 2050. This means 3-4 times increase in the carbon prices. This might sound unviable or too high a cost. But then the toll in the future would be huge if we myopically look at just short-term gains.
The report has emphasized on the pressing need for urgency in thought and immediacy in action, if we have to save this planet from devastation. Another area of concern is indiscriminate deforestation that is converting natural carbon sinks into emission sources.
The comprehensive report will be presented at the UN climate conference in Poland by year end.
Let’s hope that this report finally makes the governments realize that the time bomb of global warming is tickling fast and can explode anytime if it is not defused in a timely manner.