In 2022, the two primary sources of worry remain the covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. The latest surge of covid-19 infections in India and around the world are proof, if any were needed, that the pandemic won’t be going away in a hurry. At best, we can hope that with greater amount of vaccination, each new variant of the virus will be milder than the last, and that it will, in a few years, become something like the common cold.
The problem of the climate crisis, on the other hand, will only get worse in 2022, as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increase, instead of decreasing. This year will provide yet another chance for countries around the world to move forward meaningfully on reducing emissions. And any lack of ambition this year will make the task of keeping global heating to below catastrophic levels that much harder.
As always, climate science will provide timely reminders this year about what’s at stake. Probably the most important of these will be out in February. The UN’s climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be releasing the first of three reports next month; this one on the extent to which climate change is impacting people and ecosystems. This report, coupled with the landmark IPCC study released last year on the extent of which anthropogenic emissions are causing climate change, will give us the most complete picture yet of the way the planet is careening towards climate chaos.
The reports couldn’t come at a more important time. As a December 2021 study by the UK-based non profit Christian Aid showed, at least 10 climate disasters last year resulted in damages worth at least $1.5billion dollars each. In fact, the cyclones Tauktae (May, Arabian Sea) and Yaas (May, Bay of Bengal), caused damages worth $1.5 billion and $3 billion respectively. This gives a snapshot of the kind of extreme weather events that are becoming annual dangers, and the fact that people in highly vulnerable countries like India are already facing the brunt.
The February IPCC report will also focus on adaptation measures that are required, and this is based on notions of equity and fairness. At the COP26 climate summit in November last year, the final text of the international summit had urged developed countries to “at least double” climate finance for adaptation to developing countries by 2025. Developing countries hope to see some movement on this in 2022, especially after developed countries disappointed everyone last year by failing to deliver on the basic $1billion-per-year climate finance pledge.
As extreme weather events rise around the world, and 2022 sees another devastating round of wildfires, super-storms, extreme rain, heatwaves, drought and flooding, the hope is that such devastation will galvanise countries to stop dragging their feet on climate action. Such collective resolve will become even more important when the COP27 climate summit takes place in Cairo, Egypt in early November. The UN will be expecting countries to set out more ambitious emissions reduction goals by then. One thing is clear; any lack of clear action in 2022 may well cause widespread disenchantment with the current global mechanism to halt climate change. Governments need to step up urgently this year.