Climate crisis looms large

Research shows that climate change and global warming will deepen the social inequalities and create climate refugees
Climate crisis looms large
These periods of glaciation and warming are explained by the Milankovitch cycle, which takes place over a span of thousands of years. [Representational Image]File: Haseeb Ibn Hameed for Greater Kashmir

BY HAYA QAZI

Long term climate change is a natural phenomenon. The earth has gone through five Ice Ages which were followed by gradual warming of the earth.

These periods of glaciation and warming are explained by the Milankovitch cycle, which takes place over a span of thousands of years.

Volcanic eruptions, crustal movements, variance in solar radiation are also responsible for the natural change in climate. It is interesting to note that a mini Ice Age occurred between 1200-1850 AD, which is quite recent when seen on the geological timescale.

This mini Ice Age was caused by increase in volcanic eruptions which led to cooling of the atmosphere, and reduced solar activity.

If climate change is natural, why is there a frenzy in the scientific community? Why are leaders pledging transition to renewable energy and reduction in carbon emission at the cost of economic development?

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, man has relentlessly used fossil fuels. The rapid population growth and urbanisation led to clearing of forests and extraction of natural resources.

The carbon emissions have heated the atmosphere rapidly, and the forests that are left are unable to absorb the surplus carbon. In the last five years itself, the world has witnessed devastating forest fires, floods, droughts, cloudbursts, retreating glaciers, landslides and heatwaves.

Man’s exploitation of nature has altered the ecosystems and climate at such an alarming rate that researchers are calling this period of the geological timescale as The Anthropocene Epoch.

In 2015, at the Paris Climate Summit, 195 countries signed an agreement to keep the global temperature rise to less than 2 degree C as compared to pre-industrial levels, and to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degree C.

A report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change points out that global temperature will increase to 1.5 degree C as compared to pre industrial level as early as 2040, even if we achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

This is alarming, because any unnatural increase in the global temperature at such a rapid pace will cause irreversible damage; ecosystems will disappear, species will go extinct, small islands will submerge, vector borne and water borne diseases will be on the rise, humans will suffer from undernutrition and mental, circulatory and respiratory diseases. These are just a few consequences of climate change.

What has India done for adaptation and mitigation?

In 2008, India launched the National Action Plan for Climate Change. Programmes and schemes like FAME, UJALA, PMUY etc., are helping adapt to the climate crisis.

The Prime Minister of India announced at the Glasgow Climate Summit in 2021 that India will meet 50% of it energy requirements through renewable resources by 2030.

India has also pledged to reduce its carbon emissions considerably and will achieve net neutrality by 2070. India must seek more funding from developed countries and global institutions to achieve these targets.

But is this effective enough?

Research shows that climate change and global warming will deepen the social inequalities and will create climate refugees.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimated the number of people to be displaced due to climate and environmental disasters in India is around 1.4 crore.

It will be the poor who will suffer the most. Among them, the females and children are more vulnerable.

What can we do at the individual level?

Public perception of climate change is vital. The first step is to create a sense of urgency among the masses. Environmental education should be compulsorily included in the school curriculums.

We follow the take-make-dispose model, which is dependent on the extraction of virgin resources and disposal of the product at the end of its life. Our waste generation has not only polluted the land and air, but is now gravely endangering the marine biodiversity.

We must switch to increasing the circularity of products to minimise waste and lessen the pressure on natural resources. The intake of animal proteins has increased over time, the rearing and slaughtering of animals leads to methane emissions, which is five times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, whereas a plant based diet would do much less harm to the environment.

Green building designs must be followed for new or existing constructions, and renewable energy units should be installed in every household. Last but not the least, public must pressurise the political institutions to act responsibly, and the public must in turn protect and preserve the planet.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

Related Stories

No stories found.