Climate Change Tracker: The world is closing in on a crucial heat threshold
A new climate change report released by six global science bodies shows that the earth is closer than ever to breaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit set by the world's governments
Ever since the entire world went into lockdown mode by end-March, the silver lining that many have been expecting in an otherwise devastating 2020 is that this might help reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to a new multi-organization report, United In Science 2020, which was released on 9 September, the pandemic did make a dent, but, in the larger scheme of things, nothing has changed at all. The report has been compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), with data and analysis from the Global Carbon Project (GCP), Unesco Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (Unesco-IOC), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Met Office UK.
The report says that in early April, when global lockdowns were at their peak, carbon emissions had indeed dropped by 17% compared to 2019. However, by June, daily emissions had risen back to within 5% of 2019’s record levels. The overall emissions levels for 2020 is expected to be 4-7% less than last year, but the report says this will depend on how world governments respond to the continuing pandemic. It should be noted that to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less by 2100, global emissions have to decline by 5% every year from 2019.
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To limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius, global emissions have to fall to a massive extent by 2030. According to the report, those targets are not being met, and in ten years, the world might fall short by 29-32 gigatons of CO2 equivalents (GtCO2eq). That’s roughly the same as the combined emissions of the six largest emitting countries in the world.
As far as the state of the global climate is concerned, the five-year period of 2016-2020 is expected to be the warmest period on record—about 1.1 degree Celsius hotter than pre-industrial levels, and 0.24 degrees Celsius hotter than 2011-2015. Between 2020-24, there’s a high likelihood that the global temperature would be 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter on at least one or more months. Meanwhile, the global mean sea level has risen by 90mm since 1993, and in 2016-2020, it rose at an average of 4.8mm/year (as compared to 1-2mm/year in 1901-1990).
What this report, a synthesis of the scientific findings of the individual organizations, makes clear, is that the world is entering a short and crucial phase in the attempt to arrest climate change. What we do in the next five years, will determine the course of global warming for the next century.
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FIRST PUBLISHED11.09.2020 | 10:00 AM IST