- On May 1, the British parliament became the world’s first to declare a climate emergency: something that’s considered a largely symbolic move.
- The declaration came after 11 days of street protests in London by environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion. The group aims to bring global greenhouse gas emissions down to zero by 2025, and to end biodiversity loss–which the British government aims to achieve by 2050.
- Ireland Follows UK, Declared Climate Emergency on May 9.
- The atmosphere now has concentrations of over 415 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, compared to 280 ppm in pre-industrial times.
- The International Monetary Fund periodically assesses global subsidies for fossil fuels as part of its work on climate, and it found in a recent working paper that the fossil fuel industry got a whopping $5.2 trillion in subsidies in 2017. This amounts to 6.4 percent of the global gross domestic product.
- It goes on to say that efficient fossil fuel pricing would have reduced global carbon emissions by 28%.
- Humans have pumped over 1.5 trillion tonnes of CO₂ into the atmosphere since 1750. It is not just the amount, but the rate at which this CO₂ has been added. The oceans can absorb extra CO₂ but not fast enough to remove all human inputs and so it has been progressively building up in the atmosphere. This extra CO₂ traps more heat than would otherwise escape out into space. More energy is therefore entering the climate system than leaving it.
- Over decades and centuries the climate will move back into balance with the same amount of energy leaving as entering. But this will be at a higher temperature with among other things less ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves, and more floods. The last time the Earth’s climate experienced such an energy imbalance was the Eemian interglacial period some 115,000 years ago. At that time global sea levels were six to nine metres higher than today.
Why climate emergency declared?
- The situation is much worse than we are told by those in power and much worse than the day to day discussion in the media would suggest.
- The need to take action on climate is more urgent and more immediate than ever. The measures currently being taken at the national level – and even the best plans, currently being floated at the international level – are quite inadequate to meet the current level of threat.
- The main reason for this is that the destabilisation of global climate has progressed much more quickly than scientists thought.
- This has had the result that the plans developed to deal with it are now insufficient, being based on out of date scientific projections.
- A striking example of the physical world moving much more quickly than the predictions of scientists is the disappearance of summer ice from the arctic. An average prediction for the total disappearance of arctic summer ice ten or so years ago, hovered around the 80-years-from-now mark. It is not now unusual to hear predictions of the complete disappearance of summer arctic ice by 2030 or even sooner
- Enough concrete to cover the entire surface of the Earth in a layer two millimetres thick.
- Enough plastic has been manufactured to Clingfilm it as well.
- Annual production of 4.8 billion tonnes of top five crops and 4.8 billion head of livestock.
- There are 1.2 billion motor vehicles, 2 billion personal computers, and more mobile phones than the 7.6 billion people on Earth.
- Globally, human activities move more soil, rock and sediment each year than is transported by all other natural processes combined. Factories and farming remove as much nitrogen from the atmosphere as all Earth’s natural processes and the global climate is warming so fast that we have delayed the next ice age.
- We’ve entered the Anthropocene and left behind the stable planetary conditions of the past 10,000 years that allowed farming and complex civilisations to develop.
Counting down to 2030
- Five of our planet’s warmest years on record have occurred since 2010, whilst 2018 experienced all manner of climate extremes that broke numerous global records.
- With the planet to experience further warming from the heat held by the oceans, there is increasing international focus on meeting the United Nation’s Paris Agreement which was signed by 197 countries in 2016. This ground-breaking agreement has the ambitious global aim of preventing global temperatures from reaching 2˚C above pre-industrial levels (the late nineteenth century) by 2100, and ideally should be no more than 1.5˚C.
- A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has suggested that meeting this target means annual global carbon emissions must effectively halve between now and 2030, and then fall to zero by 2050.
Consequences of Climate Change
- The global temperature increase brings disastrous consequences, endangering the survival of the Earth’s flora and fauna, including human beings. The worst climate change impacts include the melting of the ice mass at the poles, which in turn causes rising sea level, producing flooding and threatening coastal environments through which small island states risk disappearing entirely.
- Climate change also increases the appearance of more violent weather phenomena, drought, fires, the death of animal and plant species, flooding from rivers and lakes, the creation of climate refugees and destruction of the food chain and economic resources, especially in developing countries.
India and climate change
India is well on the trajectory to achieve two of its three commitments under the Paris Agreement ahead of the 2030 deadline
Under the Paris Agreement, India has made three commitments. India’s greenhouse gas emission intensity of its GDP will be reduced by 33-35% below 2005 levels by 2030. Alongside, 40% of India’s power capacity would be based on non-fossil fuel sources. At the same time, India will create an additional ‘carbon sink’ of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
Some of the major initiatives are:
- India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) which covers eight major missions on Solar, Enhanced Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, Green India, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change
- International Solar Alliances (ISA)
- State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC)
- FAME Scheme – for E-mobility
- Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT) – for Smart Cities
- Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana – for access to clean cooking fuel
- UJALA scheme – for embracing energy efficient LED bulbs
- Swachh Bharat Mission.
- Madhya Pradesh created a new Guinness World Record after 1.5 million volunteers planted more than 66 million tree saplings within half a day along the Narmada River.
- Businesses and individual should come forward in recognising environment and biodiversity emergencies just as much as governments, once companies recognise the potential for growth after committing to being part of the solution.
- Declaring an emergency, however, should not be reduced to tokenism and, instead, address the climate risk in board meetings, put it on the agenda because of the risks it poses both to economy and survival, and involve climate scientists in business decisions.
- The world’s top climate scientists calculated in a startling report last year that if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century to avoid devastating social and economic consequences, we need to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
- One big reason that goal is tough to hit is that we’re still heavily dependent on coal, oil, and natural gas — and governments support these forms of energy far more than clean energy.
- That said, pricing carbon dioxide is one of the easier fixes in combating climate change. It’s a matter of policy, not inventing a whole new energy system. And in terms of expending political capital, ending handouts to a sector that’s harming the planet might be an easier sell.
- Though it’s necessary, pricing carbon dioxide is not a sufficient means to fight climate change. The problem requires a full-court press across society, from changing how we use and dispose of products to constructing cities more densely to being more conscientious with our food. With the clock running out to act to limit climate change, no option can be ignored.