. Amidst global turmoil, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the largest international consortium of scientists analysing and reviewing the evidence on the present and future man-made impacts of climate change — has a message that is predictably dire. The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C; even temporarily exceeding this warming level would mean additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. The report points out that the rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt. Alluding to the Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, in November 2021, the report notes that most of the targets that countries have set for themselves are too far in the future to have an impact in the short term at meaningfully reducing the climate impact.
India will achieve net zero emissions latest by 2070, that is, there will be no net carbon emissions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared at the COP26 summit. By 2030, India would also ensure 50% of its energy will be from renewable energy sources. However, none of this can help the 1.5°C mark from being breached. A major point of emphasis of the report, particularly for South Asia, is the trend in the ‘wet bulb’ temperature — an index of the impact of heat and humidity combined — and its effect on health. Lucknow and Patna, according to one of several studies cited in the report, were among the cities predicted to reach wet-bulb temperatures of 35°C if emissions continued to rise, while Bhubaneshwar, Chennai, Mumbai, Indore, and Ahmedabad are ‘at risk’ of reaching wet-bulb temperatures of 32°C-34°C with continued emissions. This will have consequences such as a rise in heat-wave linked deaths or reduced productivity.
Global sea levels will likely rise 44cm-76cm this century if governments meet their current emission-cutting pledges. But with higher emissions, and if ice sheets collapse more quickly than expected, sea levels could rise as much as 2 metres this century and 5m by 2150. India is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of the population that will be affected by sea-level rise. By the middle of the century, around 35 million of its people could face annual coastal flooding, with 45 million-50 million at risk by the end of the century if emissions are high. Experience has shown that partisan economic calculations trump climate considerations, but India must shore up its adaptation measures and urgently move to secure the futures of its many vulnerable who have the most to lose.
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