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The Dangerous 2 Degree C
This story appears in the January 2019 issue of School LIVE.
2019 is here and we hope to start anew for the environment. Be it global warming, or the increase in the carbon footprints, every factor has an impeding effect on our planet. We take a close look at the COP21 treaty that was signed in 2015, and the glaring effects of the sudden rise in temperatures all over the globe.

The year 2018 witnessed a series of radical changes to the climate across the globe — a meltdown, quite literally! Countries which never needed the fan during summers are installing air conditioners, some places are getting so much rainfall that it is causing floods and some places are getting no rainfall at all. All these extreme conditions that are surfacing globally are the results of years of blatant negligence and exploiting our natural resources.

 

United Nations, an international syndicate which maintains and oversees the overall growth and safety of the global community, has constantly been highlighting the concerns of global warming for many years now. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has dedicatedly spoken about the issues such as the increase in greenhouse gases, which in turn has led to the steady rise in the temperatures worldwide. UNFCCC was formed in 1992, and since it’s conceptualization, 197 countries have become its signatories. In 2015, UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement which focuses on the pressing issue of reducing carbon emissions worldwide by the year 2020.  

 

The ever-increasing footprint of carbon emissions have today led to a situation where each nation — a superpower or a developing one — needs to rethink and strategize its move towards safeguarding their people. Some of the major discussions that were held during the 2015 conference (COP21) were as follows:

 

  • Restrict the average temperature rise to below 2℃.

  • Develop climate plans by 2020 which will help one stick to the goals.

  • Protect all the ecosystems which include the forest cover and the aquatic life.

 

Three years after the Paris Agreement, the bench met again at the COP24 conference held at Katowice (Poland) from 3rd-14th December, 2018. This follow up conference held at Poland after a gap of 3 years, only brought to the forefront every nation’s worst fears. Agendas decided in the COP21 hadn’t even been adequately implemented by any of the signatories and plans drafted to implement the same were an absolute washout. At the end of the COP24 summit it was understood that all the partnering nations that had come onboard during the 2015 meet will have to seriously get on track to achieve what they had committed to. Decided in the same summit, was the idea to abide by the ‘Katowice Rulebook’ which requires all the nations to submit regular reports on the actions they have taken. In other words, every nation has to now give timely updates on what they achieved and how they went on to achieve their decided targets.


 

If one scrutinises the implementation of the set targets it goes on to show that the benchmark which was set during the first meet no longer seems substantial, especially because the damage that has already been caused to the environment now needs to be toned down more aggressively. The latest reports state that even if the countries are able to restrict the global temperature rise to 2℃ it won’t be enough. Now the rise needs to be capped at a temperature of 1.5℃ or less. Climatologist Michael Mann told National Geographic, “The more we can do to prevent this temperature rise, the better. The further we go the more explosions we are likely to set off: 1.5C is safer than 2C, 2C is safer than 2.5C, 2.5C is safer than 3C, and so on." Every degree counts and can make a difference.

 

Though 1.5 or 2℃ may not seem much of a concern, it has already caused an irreversible situation which can not be undone, but only be curbed and controlled. What looks like a marginal increase for us, may lead to the wiping out of the underwater corals completely, which will in turn lead to substantial loss of marine life. The glaciers at the north and the south pole will also melt at a faster rate, which means a rise in the water levels in the oceans, leading to complete flooding and submerging of islands and low-lying areas. Picture Mumbai which gets flooded every monsoon. Now imagine if the water levels were to rise permanently. Or for that matter, imagine traveling to a Manali or Shimla without any snow!

 

 

At the rate we are going the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that most of these goals are now unachievable. Our window to save ourselves from hitting the 1.5℃ is closing rather fast. The biggest step towards achieving this rather steep feat would be for every nation to move away from the usage of fossil fuels.

 

In the midst of all this news comes a sigh of some relief for India. According to the reports by Netherlands Environmental Investigation Agency, India is one of the nine countries in the list of 25 top carbon emitters that is actually on track to controlling their carbon footprint target, that they had set for themselves during the COP21 Paris Agreement. But, is this achievement enough to bandage the damages that we have inflicted so far?.

 

The hard reality that we all need to acknowledge is that we are sitting in a bullet train headed towards doomsday. The comfort is that we control the train, we can slow it down, even stop it.

 
Timing the new acronyms.

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