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India TV Perspective: Climate Change poses greatest threat for planet but are we doing enough?

Human-caused climate change, which is occurring more rapidly than ever before, has resulted in eight years as the hottest on record. Climate change results in damaging weather events such as droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms.

Written By: Puja Sethi @pujasethi11 New Delhi Updated on: February 14, 2024 22:13 IST
Photographers cover themselves with scarves during a hot
Image Source : PTI Photographers cover themselves with scarves during a hot summer afternoon, at the India Gate, in New Delhi

The year 2023, became the warmest year on record, with July the hottest month in 120,000 years, a result of human-caused climate change, fuelled by the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, and this intensified by El Nino, a natural climate phenomenon with a global heating effect which is expected to last, until at least April 2024.

Human-influenced climate change is occurring rapidly than ever before. The last eight years stand as the hottest on record. WMO reports indicate that in 2015, the chance of temporarily reaching the 1.5-degree threshold was nearly zero. However, from 2017 to 2021, it surged to 10 per cent, and by 2022, this skyrocketed to almost 50 per cent.

Climate change triggers other damaging weather events such as droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms, declining biodiversity and rising sea levels. The rate of global sea rise has doubled since 1993, reaching a new record high. Today, rising sea levels are a challenge for two-thirds of the world's biggest cities.

Climate change poses several risks to humans and all life forms on Earth.

  • Climate change is directly contributing to humanitarian emergencies from heatwaves, wildfires, floods and tropical storms.
  • Research shows that 3.6 billion people already live in areas highly susceptible to climate change.
  • Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to lead to about 2,50,000 additional deaths annually due to undernutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress.
  • By 2030, the direct health costs caused by climate change are estimated to be between 2 billion and 4 billion dollars per year.
  • Right now, children's lives are more under threat with 1 billion children, nearly half the world's 2.2 billion children, at 'extremely high risk' of the climate crisis.  These children will face exposure to various climate and environmental shocks, coupled with heightened vulnerability resulting from insufficient access to essential services like water and sanitation, healthcare, and education. The figures are likely to get worse with the growing impacts of climate change. The UN calls the situation "unimaginably dire".
  • Climate change is likely to abruptly push up to 30 per cent of species over tipping points, as their geographic ranges, reach unforeseen temperatures.

Experts say this is just a taste of the future

Scientists currently project a 66 per cent chance of the Earth, experiencing a 1.5-degree Celsius temperature rise above pre-industrial levels by 2027. There's a 98 per cent probability that the upcoming five-year period will be the hottest on record, strongly indicating that it is very likely that global surface temperatures will exceed the 2015 Paris climate agreement's 1.5-degree Celsius threshold.

Some of these signs are already visible as people are experiencing climate change in diverse ways.

The Lancet has warned that "global health lies at the mercy of fossil fuels".  At COP28, for the first time, delegates from nearly 200 nations acknowledged to transition away from fossil fuels, marking the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era.

To avoid the worst climate impacts, and ensure a liveable environment, urgent transformative measures are crucial. While a growing number of countries are committing to net zero emissions by 2050, emissions must be cut in half by 2030 to keep warming below 1.5°C and avoid potential irreversible tipping points. But, we have to act now.

Recently, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned, saying "We are living through climate collapse in real time, and the impact is devastating. We must also go further and faster in protecting people from climate chaos."

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