No scope for lethargy on climate action - GulfToday

No scope for lethargy on climate action

India Heatwave

Heatwaves and floods which used to be ‘once-in-a-century’ events are becoming more regular occurrences.

Just a glance at some of the happenings around the world triggered by climate change would indicate the danger facing the planet and the need for urgency in tackling global warming.

The past decade is almost certain to be the hottest on record, weather experts have warned, painting a bleak picture of vanishing sea ice, devastating heatwaves and encroaching seas in a report launched at a climate summit in Spain.

An annual assessment of the Earth’s climate by the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization (WMO) underscored the stakes at two weeks of talks aimed at shoring up the 2015 Paris Agreement to avert catastrophic global warming.

Heatwaves and floods which used to be ‘once-in-a-century’ events are becoming more regular occurrences, as WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas points out. Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia.

Just consider these warning signals: Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and 10-year (2010-2019) periods are almost certain to be the highest on record; 2019 is on course to be the second- or third-warmest year on record; sea water is 26 per cent more acidic than at the start of the industrial era, degrading marine ecosystems; Arctic sea-ice neared record lows in September and October, and Antarctica also saw record low ice several times this year.

And the list goes on.

According to another report from environmental thinktank Germanwatch, flood-inducing rains, two deadly heatwaves, and the worst typhoon to hit Japan in a quarter century — all in 2018 — left hundreds dead, thousands homeless and more than $35 billion in damage nationwide.

Category 5 Typhoon Manghut − the most powerful tropical storm of the year − ripped through northern Philippines in September, displacing a quarter of a million people and unleashing lethal landslides, indicates the group’s updated Global Climate Risk Index.

In Germany, a sustained summer heatwave and drought along with average temperatures nearly three degrees Celsius above normal over a four-month stretch resulted in 1,250 premature deaths and losses of $5 billion, mostly in agriculture.

2018’s top weather disasters showed that even the world’s most advanced and resilient economies can find themselves at the mercy of meteorological events amplified by global warming.

Japan, Philippines and Germany top a list of countries worst hit by extreme weather last year.

India was ravaged by crippling heat in 2018, along with the worst flooding in over 100 years and a pair of cyclones. Total damages: nearly $38 billion.

The 2015 Paris agreement saw nations commit to limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as a way of curbing the worst impacts of global warming.

A safer cap of 1.5°C was included as a goal for nations to work towards.

With Earth having already warmed by 1°C, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) dropped a bombshell last year.

Its landmark report in October 2018 laid the groundwork for the string of climate shockwaves that rumbled throughout 2019: The world is way off course for 1.5°C, and the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C could be catastrophic.

Spurred on by Swedish rising star Greta Thunberg, millions of young people have been taking part in weekly demonstrations demanding climate action.

Unfortunately, while society and particularly younger generations appear to have woken up to the threat of climate catastrophe, it is distressing that industry and political leaders show little sign of sharing such serious concerns.

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