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World Has Only Till 2030 to Stem Catastrophic Climate Change, and India May Suffer the Worst of It

The rising temperatures are a concern for all nations, especially developing countries like India that have fewer resources to combat climate change and a large percent of population under poverty line.

Hridayesh Joshi |

Updated:October 8, 2018, 11:58 AM IST
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World Has Only Till 2030 to Stem Catastrophic Climate Change, and India May Suffer the Worst of It
A sky lantern floats in front of the Lotus Temple during an environment awareness programme in New Delhi. (Photo: Reuters)
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To keep the temperature rise of earth below 1.5 degree - from pre-industrial level- is possible but the pledges taken by world nations to combat global warming in the Paris agreement aren’t enough to achieve this goal. To reduce carbon emission to “net zero”, not just government but every individual will have to make his or her lifestyle less carbon intensive to save the earth.

These are the clear lessons emerging from the special report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was released in South Korea on Monday.

“To limit warming to 1.5 degrees, CO2 emissions would need to reach ‘net zero’ around 2050 and it should fall at least by 45% in by 2030 (by 2010 levels),” notes the special report prepared by 91 authors from 40 countries. It clearly says that at current emission rates, the 1.5 degree temperature rise will be reached between 2030 and 2052.

The rising temperatures are a concern for all nations, but especially developing countries like India that have fewer resources to combat climate change and a large percent of population under poverty line. India is also worried because the erratic weather pattern induced by climate change is causing drought, excessive rains and sea level rise.

The report not only exhorts nations for enhanced commitments made in the historic Paris agreement signed in 2015 to stop global warming but it also points out that individual lifestyle will be crucial to keep the rising temperature below the threatening level.

“We have talked about the governments but the report is quite clear that everyone has means to act related to daily choices. The report clearly says that behaviour and lifestyle are important elements of the feasibility of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. There are also elements related to diet,” said one of the author scientists in a press conference while releasing the report.

While in India millions of people still don’t have the access to electricity, the lifestyle of people living US and European countries is profligate. The per capita consumption of electricity of US is more than thirty times than in India or more than 60 times than Nigeria.

World Bank data released in 2011 tells us that while in US, 786 people own a car in every 1000, in India and Bangladesh the figure was just 18 and three respectively. Ironically, United States has not only withdrawn from Paris agreement of 2015 but it also did not endorse the special report of IPCC.

Scientists, however, say that the world is at the crossroads and what is done till 2030 from now to stop and reduce the greenhouse gas the carbon emissions will be crucial.

The IPCC special report clearly points out that half a degree temperature-rise means a lot for earth and world will be a far better living place if we could keep the temperature rise under 1.5 degree and not allow it to reach to a 2 degree scenario. The report says this half a degree difference will expose 10 million fewer people to risk of rising sea as there will be 10 centimetre lower sea level rise (SLR).

This is important to note that small island nations have been asking to keep the temperature rise below 1.5 degree because any further warming will submerge many of them due to high SLR. The report is not country-specific or region specific but its findings clearly suggest that countries like India will be amongst the worst sufferers of global warming.

India is home to thousands of large and small glaciers and it has vast coastline spread along 7500 kilometres. More than 250 million people live in coastal districts and most of them depend on seashore for their livelihood.

The rising temperature will not only threaten the coast but it also induces cyclonic storms like “Hudhud” in east coast in 2014 or “Ockhi” in 2017 in Arabian Sea. In the last one decade, India has witnessed repeated extreme weather events including floods in Kedarnath, Kashmir and Mumbai and droughts in Central India.

“This is not a country-specific report. This shows the global scenario. We expect detailed world and region-specific reports by the end of next year,” said Aromar Revi, one of the Coordinating Lead Authors (Adaptation & Mitigation) of IPCC report.

The effects of rising temperature will be mostly borne by poor countries as they will have to adapt to new challenging situations with far less financial resources. For instance, in Bhola Island in Bangladesh, more than 500,000 people have been displaced due to sea level rise.

The report stresses on the need to start taking carbon dioxide out of atmosphere as it has serious implication on food security, ecosystems and biodiversity. The summary says progress in the renewables – like solar and wind - would need to be mirrored in other sectors.

The rapid reduction of using fossil fuels for energy will be critical as it will set the nations on a low carbon path. The report says that the mix of measures to adapt the climate change and reduce emissions can have benefits for sustainable development goals.

“The IPCC report builds on the well-established body of evidence showing that the coal industry has no role in a climate stable world.” said Jan Erik Saugestad, CEO, Storebrand Asset Management of Norway which provides scalable, sustainable solutions and thematic funds.
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