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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that in 2020, the global average temperature reaches 1.2oC above pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that we need to limit global warming to 1.5oC. Crossing the 1.5oC threshold will have disastrous impacts on the Earth’s climate.
Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, released the report. He said that the UN is working toward building a coalition globally to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. He warned that we are getting treacherously close to the 1.5oC limit set by the Paris Agreement. With global temperatures already reaching 1.2oC above pre-industrial levels, the worst impacts of climate change are just on the horizon. We must limit the Earth’s warming to the Paris targets to avert disastrous climate change effects. Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5oC means greenhouse gas emissions globally by 45% by 2030 from 2010. We would also need to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. To achieve this, by 2040, all countries need to phase out coal-powered energy.
2020 was one of the three warmest years ever recorded. The six years following 2015 were the warmest years on record. Also, the decade 2011-2020 saw global temperature rise breaking all records. Global temperatures have risen so much that the decrease in emissions during the COVID-19 lockdown is almost negligible.
Global carbon emissions have already crossed 410 parts per million (ppm). This is a rise of 148% from pre-industrial levels.
Developed countries must take the lead in phasing out coal from their energy grids. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries must completely cut out coal by 2030. The rest of the countries, the developing countries, must stop using fossil fuels by 2040. We have to stop the production of all new coal power plants right now across the world.
The global coalition by the United Nations is committed to reducing emissions and reaching net zero. The coalition will cover all countries, regions, cities, financial institutions, and businesses. The world needs to undergo a major transformation in the coming ten years. Governments need to submit their climate plans for the next ten years to the Paris Agreement.
There are 59 countries that represent 54% of global emissions. These countries have declared their net-zero targets. Only six countries in the world have developed legislations surrounding net-zero emissions. India is one of those six countries. The other nations include Costa Rice, the Philippines, and Bhutan. The climate pledges of 7 countries are critically insufficient. Their targets will actually increase warming by 4oC. These countries include the United States and the Russian Federation.
In June 2020, temperatures at Verkhoyansk, Russian Federation, reached 38oC. The temperature was the highest ever recorded in the Arctic Circle. In September 2020, the extent of Arctic sea ice was the second-lowest ever recorded. During the first half of 2020, climate-related hazards and disasters displaced around 9.8 million people. Parts of North America, Africa, and Asia recorded unusually high monsoonal precipitation in 2020.
Despite an occurrence of La Nina that cooled East Pacific waters, 2020 was still among the warmest years. La Nina usually brings down global temperatures. However, global warming due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions is offsetting the cooling effect of La Nina. Even past El Nino events weren’t as warm as the La Nina events in the present world. This means that an El Nino event in the present day will immediately fuel global temperatures.
Very few people realize the disastrous turn of events even a degree of warming brings. Some regions of the world, like the Himalayas, are even warming at a faster pace. This raises serious concerns for countries in the tropics like India. For instance, in 2020, even as India battled the COVID-19 pandemic, climate disasters like Cyclone Amphan reared their faces. Cyclones intensify in warmer oceans. Therefore, tropical regions can expect to see an increase in cyclones and hurricanes as global warming increases.
All countries must encourage investments in technologies that aid adaptation to climate impacts. We need to protect those vulnerable to such extreme weather events. At the same time, governments need to rapidly develop greenhouse gas emissions mitigation policies.
The WMO reported that there is a 50:50 chance that, in the next five years, global temperatures could reach 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels. 1.5oC marks the point at which the impacts of climate change become severely harmful for people and the entire planet. The probability of us crossing that mark has steadily risen since 2015. In 2015, the probability was almost zero. But over the past five years, it has increased to 10%.
Temperatures will continue to rise as long as countries continue to emit greenhouse gases. Our oceans will become warmers, their acidity will increase, glaciers and sea ice will continue to melt, and the occurrence of extreme weather events will increase. Warming in the Arctic is extremely high. Warming in the Arctic affects the entire world.
Dr. Leon Hermanson from the UK Met Office said that global temperatures would continue to rise. He also said that there is a high chance we will cross the 1.5oC mark between the years 2022 and 2026.
The global average temperature rise in 2021 was 1.1oC. Several La Nina events at the start of 2021 temporarily reduced global temperatures. However, it did not reverse long-term global warming trends.
Scientists have predicted that each year between 2022 and 2026 will record a global average temperature rise between 1.1oC and 1.7oC. The warmest year on record is 2016. The chance that we might experience a warmer year between 2022 and 2026 is 93%. Scientists also predict that increased global warming and climate change will bring increased precipitation to the tropics and decreased precipitation to the subtropics.
Global temperatures have already reached 1.2oC above pre-industrial levels. This just goes to show how urgently we need to act to avoid reaching 1.5oC. Governments and businesses must develop climate-responsible policies that encourage emissions reductions. We need to accelerate global transitions to a low-carbon economy. Countries also need to urgently push forward their net-zero emissions targets.