Red flags: Editorial on climate change
The State of Climate report, released by the World Meteorological Organization, a specialised agency of the United Nations, has found that four principal indicators of climate change — greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean heat, sea-level rise and ocean acidification — had climbed by record margins in 2021. The highest global temperatures were recorded between 2015 and 2021, even though nations are attempting to limit the temperature hike to 1.5 degree Celsius under the 2015 Paris Agreement. There are troubles on other fronts as well. Emissions of greenhouse gases have seen a steady increase in the last three years; 2021 recorded the highest-ever global mean sea level, while ocean heat and acidification have spiked. The attendant economic costs are frightening: says that extreme weather events, which would become the “day-to-day face of climate change”, would inflict damages worth more than $100 billion.
In spite of these dire warnings, it is business as usual for the global fraternity. The CoP26 climate change conference led to countries agreeing to ink the Glasgow Climate Pact, which urges governments to commit to contain deforestation and global methane emissions while transitioning to net-zero emissions, among other measures. But it is amply clear that the world and India are far behind the required pace of change. Last year, an analysis of 36 countries and the European Union found that only one African nation, The Gambia, appeared to be on track to meet its targets — India fell under the category of “highly insufficient”. The UN agency has estimated that there is a 50 per cent chance that the annual global temperature could temporarily breach the 1.5 degree Celsius mark at least once in the next five years. Years of denial about the imminence of the climate crisis have been followed by policy inertia. Worse, negotiations on climate change — the climate summits are an example — have been reduced to bitter feuding contests between the developed world and the poorer nations on a number of issues, neutering the effectiveness of the commitments that are agreed upon. But the failures of the past should not stand in the way of adopting targeted measures that are immediate and effective. Global diplomacy has disentangled many a tricky problem. Ironically, deliberations on the climate, more often than not, hit the dead end.