Climate change consequences read like a dystopian novel

Dhaka,  Mon,  26 June 2017
Published : 16 Jun 2017, 21:18:01 | Updated : 16 Jun 2017, 21:19:37
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Climate change consequences read like a dystopian novel

Shaila Mahmud
People in Somalia face famine conditions, triggered by prolong drought. About 30 million people in East African countries are on the brink of an alarming level of food insecurity.

Researchers have observed an increase in salinity intrusion in Bangladesh by about 26 per cent, leading to scarcity of fresh drinking water and adversely affecting livelihoods of people living in the coastal regions.

Scientists now find greening of Antarctica's pristine white landscape, fostered by higher temperature and warming by half a degree per decade.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a ' fail-safe' repository buried deep in an Arctic mountain side to protect the earth's food supply during an apocalypse - was flooded last month due to melting of ice.

Fishing villagers along Honduras' Caribbean coast see how rising of the sea level devours their inhabitable lands.

All these may look like 'bits and pieces' from a 'dystopian novel', but these are simply the consequences of climate change that the world is experiencing now. 

The world is already warmer by a degree and a further dramatic rise in global temperature will be catastrophic for the earth's eco-system as well as for socio-economic 

conditions.

In December 2015, in Paris, representatives from 196 countries adopted the ambitious Paris Agreement to keep temperature 'well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5C". 

Now the question is: How did the number 1.5C make its way to the historic climate pact?

Two degrees was considered to be the safer limit for as long as 12 years till the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) showed their reservations regarding this long-set global temperature limit in 2008. 

In an AOSIS commissioned study, the scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research on the impacts of 2C rise put forward the need for a safer limit for the survival of the island states.

In Copenhagen in 2009, the small island states and African countries with Tuvalu in the lead called for including the 1.5C limit in global climate negotiations. 

Finally, after much negotiation, the Copenhagen Accord enshrined 2C as the central goal for global climate politics, with a provision for revisiting 1.5C degrees in 2015. 

In 2011, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christina Figures acknowledged, "Two degrees is not enough - we should be thinking of 1.5 degrees. If we are not headed to 1.5 degrees, we are in big trouble, big trouble."

The recognition from her gave the 1.5 limit the support to go those extra miles to set a global goal to 'stay alive'. 

Finally, in 2015, at the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP), the 1.5 limit was adopted as the safer limit to determine the very existence of vulnerable nations in the world map.

Although this half a degree difference may seem negligible in figure, it has greater significance in the long run. 

A research published in April 2016 in 'Earth System Dynamics' analysed the climate models used in IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report where they considered 11 different indicators including extreme weather events, water availability, crop yields, coral reef degradation and sea-level rise to forecast impacts at 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees of warming. 

The study suggests 'significant differences' in all the impacts including inundation (due to sea-level rise and glacier melting), scarcity of fresh water, issue of food security, unbearable heat waves in summer and unpredictable precipitation rate.

So, the big question is: Is it possible to achieve this highly ambitious goal? In the run-up to Paris, all the parties to the Convention were called for submitting their national pledges to reduce global warming. 

The UN Environment Programme suggested that the current national pledges or the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) will reduce the 2030 emissions from around 64.7 Gt to 53-53.9 Gt with a gap in emission reduction of 12-14 Gt to be on track for a 2C limit. 

While in theory, the success to pursue the ambitious goal of 1.5 limit by 2100 is yet to be confirmed, the Unites States' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has acted as a damper on many. 

The NDCs, prepared by the developing nations, are subject to international assistance of US$ 100 billion per year by 2020 from the developed countries through the Green Climate Fund (GCF). 

The US pullout from the climate deal has endangered about 1 billion people, stated Ethiopia, Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) in a statement released on June 9, 2017. 

Although this looks like a huge setback to the efforts to curb global warming, however, climate experts around the world opine otherwise. 'Donald Trump and his Climate Change Denial' saga has been going on for quite some time from during his campaign for the US presidency. 

"If the US stays in it (the Paris Agreement), the rest of the world would have to face negative consequence of having to fight them on every little issue in the negotiations, as they will inevitably try to hold back all our actions", said Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development.

In addition to this, 'Carbon Brief' in a report last month predicted that only four more years are to go before we fully burn down the 1.5 carbon budget. 

As we are already a degree above the pre-industrial level, a collective and more ambitious approach towards achieving the goals are to be made.

The writer is a Climate Tracker Fellow for 1.5C Survive and Thrive Campaign.

shaila.mahmud91@gmail.com


 
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