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Global warming, if not contained, will threaten economic growth

TPCI_Economy and climate change

Global temperatures are already up by about 1 degree Celcius (1.8 degree Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial level and are rising at a rate of 0.2 degree Celcius a decade. If effective measures are not taken and the temperatures rise to 2 degree level, economic growth will be hampered in many developed and developing countries, due to costs associated with floods or droughts, storm surges, salt spray damaging crops or an increase in human deaths from heat-waves.

If emissions continue at their present rate, human-induced warming will exceed 1.5 degree Celcius by around 2040. The Paris climate agreement, adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015, set a goal of limiting warming to “well below” a rise of 2 degree Celcius above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for the tougher 1.5 degree goal, which if made possible, will expose about 10 million fewer people in coastal areas to risks from natural calamities. The economic loss too will be severally reduced in such an eventuality. The deal has been weakened after the US President Donald Trump decided last year to pull out and promote US fossil fuels.

The voices to limiting global warming first emanated on global platform in 2009 and since then are steadily increasing. Over a hundred Small Island Developing States, Least Developing Countries and many others are most vociferous. These groups achieved a victory of sort through placing the 1.5 degree Celcius limit alongside the legally binding goal to hold global temperatures “well below 2 degree Celcius above pre-industrial levels” in the Paris Agreement earlier this year,

Salient points of the Paris Agreement are as follows:

The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and for the first time brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.

The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework.

The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts.

The agreement also recognises the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change; acknowledges the need to cooperate and enhance the understanding, action and support in different areas such as early warning systems, emergency preparedness and risk insurance.
Observational records show that half a degree increase in global temperature in the recent past has resulted in substantial increases in extreme weather events. Ocean systems are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and there is already clear evidence for loss and damage inflicted by climate change on ocean systems.

Experts opine that the 1.5 degree Celcius goal is not out of reach, but it means that global forest cover must be rapidly expanding by the early 2030s, rather than continuing in a state of contraction. If social barriers can be overcome, such as the impact on agricultural communities, so-called “nature-based solutions”, such as reforestation, can help to limit peak warming because their scale-up can be considerably faster than the comparable transformation of energy technologies. If these steps are taken, it will provide an additional carbon sink of more than 10Gt per year by 2070. Unless significant amount of Carbon Dioxide is reduced from the atmosphere, it will be difficult to achieve this objective  and the best way to do so is to plant the required number of trees.

Immediate focus is necessary to look at major emitting sectors and understand what can be done – and how fast – to come up with a list of the most important things to do in the next 30 years, in a phased manner, to bend the emissions curve downwards. It is essential to move to renewable energies, such as wind, solar and hydro power in a big way. According to estimates, the surge towards renewable energies would have to be by 60 percent from 2020 levels by 2050 to stay below 1.5 degree Celcius with the condition that “primary energy from coal decreases by two-thirds”. This means that by 2050, renewable must be supplying between 49 and 67 percent of primary energy.

Recent thrust by Indian Government to enhance use of renewable energies and promote alternative sources of transport like the cycle-on-rent scheme which is coming up in a big way in Delhi is meant for this purpose. A lot more need to be done though these are small steps in the right direction!


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