Climate Change Tracker: Breaching the heat barrier
- The world is almost 1.2 degrees Celsius hotter than pre-industrial levels. In five years, we could reach the scary point of being 1.5 degrees hotter
The entire focus of the international effort to mitigate climate change revolves around the number 1.5. According to the landmark climate change report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018, the world’s governments must try their utmost to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Reaching this target would mean that we make the best of a bad deal. It would mean that while 70-90% of global coral reefs would be gone, some of it would still survive. While 70% of Himalayan glaciers would be gone, again, some of it would still remain. Global water stress would be 50% lower with a 1.5-degree threshold than a 2 degrees Celsius rise.
It would be fair to say that global efforts at mitigation have missed plenty of deadlines since the 2018 report. Annual carbon emissions have continued to grow rather than decline. According to the live tracker Globalwarmingindex.com, the world is close to being 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer. And a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) now says that there is a 70% chance that multiple months in the coming five years will be 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels.
Although the chances of entire years being 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer is only at 20%, the WMO warns that the chance is increasing with time. As such, the report says, the annual mean global surface temperature between 2020-24 will be .91 to 1.59 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Nor should we be deceived by the annual drop in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to the covid-19 pandemic. As WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas warned, a pandemic is no substitute for planned mitigation. While releasing the WMO report, he said, "Whilst covid-19 has caused a severe international health and economic crisis, failure to tackle climate change may threaten human well-being, ecosystems and economies for centuries. Governments should use the opportunity to embrace climate action as part of recovery programmes and ensure that we grow back better."
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FIRST PUBLISHED15.07.2020 | 09:00 AM IST