September 23, 2021, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Climate Change: a serious threat demanding urgent action

The Nepal Weekly
August 17, 2021

By Arun Ranjit

Climate change is the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place. The cause of current climate change is largely human activity, like burning fossil fuels, like natural gas, oil, and coal. Burning these materials releases what are called greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere.

Generally, climate change describes a change in the average conditions- such as temperature and rainfall- in a region over a long period of time.

Climate change is appearing ever more frequently every time. Massive flooding in China, raging wildfires in the United States and Greece, and record high temperatures worldwide. Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns.

The primary cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, which emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—primarily carbon dioxide. Other human activities, such as agriculture and deforestation, also contribute to the proliferation of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

With this shaping up to be another scorching hot summer – not only in Asia but also the US and Europe – the effects and threat of climate change have never been more palpable and immediate.

Human health is vulnerable to climate change. The changing environment is expected to cause more heat stress, an increase in waterborne diseases, poor air quality, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents. Extreme weather events can compound many of these health threats.

Yet everything we do – from eating to shopping to travelling – releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and, therefore, has a negative impact on the planet’s climate. It is clear the need for us to be more eco-conscious as consumers has never been greater.

The good news is, according to a 2020 survey conducted by management consultancy firm Accenture, 60 per cent of global consumers have, at least, started to make more “environmental friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases” since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the pandemic, wearing face masks and ordering takeaway meals had become part of the “new normal”. That, in turn, has, unfortunately, created an ecological disaster in Asia. Try to avoid using single-use plastic bags and containers – always bring your own shopping bag, or use your own cutlery when dining out –and put on reusable masks. These practices will make a (positive) difference.

Global climate change is accelerating and human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are the overwhelming cause. According to a landmark report released by the United Nations, there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming this century, but only if countries around the world stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible, the authors warn.

The effects of that warming are obvious and deadly around the world. Wildfires are burning with unprecedented frequency and intensity, including in places that used to rarely burn. Smoke and smog are choking people in cities and towns from Asia to the Arctic. Ocean heat waves are threatening entire ecosystems and supercharging hurricanes and typhoons.

One of the biggest recent advances in climate research is in the field of so-called attribution science, which ties global warming to individual weather events such as hurricanes or heat waves.

Scientists can now say with certainty that humans are causing more extreme weather, including heavy downpours and extended heat waves and droughts.

The report also confirms that global sea level rise is accelerating. Globally, sea levels rose about 8 inches on average between 1901 and 2018, although the water rose much more in some places, including in some cities on the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States.

Sea level rise is primarily driven by melting glaciers, and Arctic ice. There’s a lag between emissions and ice melting, which means even if humans were to stop all greenhouse gas emissions today, sea levels would continue to rise for a few decades, the report estimated.

Despite the disastrous descriptions of our hotter Earth, the new report also makes clear that it is not too late to curb global warming. The more humans reduce emissions this decade, the more livable Earth will be for the rest of this century and for many centuries to come.

One of the big questions posed by world leaders is whether it’s still possible to meet the targets set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

 That agreement seeks to limit global warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and ideally keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F). Earth is already about 1 degree Celsius hotter than it was in the late 1800s.

The new report finds that it is still possible to meet the targets set under the Paris agreement, but it gets more difficult with every passing day. The authors used five theoretical scenarios to predict future global warming.

The scenarios include different levels of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as economic and population growth and political collaboration.

The authors found that if countries around the world dramatically and permanently cut emissions immediately, Earth will start getting cooler around the middle of this century. On the other hand, if countries move more slowly to curb emissions or fail to transition to cleaner sources of energy, Earth could warm by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees F) or more by the end of the century.

The pace of sea level rise varies dramatically depending on where you live. Governments need regional information to decide where to build new infrastructure and how to protect existing coastal cities. The same is true for drought and flooding from rainstorms, which disrupt agriculture and drinking water supplies.

More frequent and intense drought, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans can directly harm animals, destroy the places they live, and wreak havoc on people’s livelihoods and communities. As climate change worsens, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe.

Nepal Impact

Millions of Nepalese are estimated to be at risk from the impacts of climate change including reductions in agricultural production, food insecurity, strained water resources, loss of forests and biodiversity, as well as damaged infrastructure.

Climate change is a major problem for Nepal as it is one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change.

Nepal is highly vulnerable to natural disasters. Globally, it is ranked fourth, eleventh and thirtieth in terms of vulnerability to climate change, earthquake and flood risks respectively. About 80 per cent of Nepal’s population lives in rural areas, and improving the resilience of the villages is crucial.

Serious Threat

As climate change will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world – access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warns.

It becomes a serious global threat that demands an urgent global response International agreements to deal with global environmental issues should invoke the principles of sustainable development proposed.

South Asia

According to the UN Report, South Asia’s climate change vulnerability has long been apparent. Rising sea levels and flooding threaten the coastal states of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Landlocked Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Nepal face rising temperatures, drought, and glacial melts.

The region is also home to the lowest lying country in the world: the densely populated island nation of the Maldives, which could be submerged in the not-too-distant future.

World Bank also indicated that Almost 700 million people—nearly half of South Asia’s population—have been affected by at least one climate-related disaster in the last decade. India and Pakistan ranked among the 20 countries most affected by climate change in the 21st century in the think tank Germanwatch’s 2020 Global Climate Risk Index.

Climate impacts could rob South Asian countries of up to 13 per cent of their GDP by 2050, said McKinsey Global Institute Reported.

Without mitigation, the climate crisis is likely to exacerbate South Asia’s many fault lines and volatilities. In the coming decades, conflict between India and Pakistan could break out over water in addition to territory, and Afghan refugees could be fleeing drought, not just war.

Threats

As global warming is the major challenge for our global society, there is very little doubt that global warming will change our climate in the next century. So, there must be an international political solution, funding for developing cheap and clean energy production must be increased, as all economic development is based on increasing energy usage. Finally, we must prepare for the worst and adapt if the costs and damage that could be caused by changing climate can be mitigated. Apart from the urgent need for climate mitigation, it is essential to pay attention to climate adaptation.