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  • Raghav Sand

Climate Change: There is No Planet ‘B’ (Yet)

As the world is taking steps towards normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic, a more potent damaging force is not been given appropriate attention. We need to factor in the environment before all our actions and not behave like enlightened beings only on 5th June (World Environment Day). Almost every country is now undertaking vaccination drive for building defence against Sars-Cov-2 virus.

Lockdown measures ensured that vehicular pollution and emissions from airplanes were at record low levels in 2020. Though, average temperatures and natural calamities wreaked havoc. Rising temperatures is not a phenomenon that occurs due to activities over few months or the past year, but it is a result of sustained abuse of environment over the last several decades.

The World is Getting Warmer

2016 and 2020 are tied for the warmest year on record. The Northern Hemisphere saw its hottest year on record, in 2020, at 1.28 degrees C above the 20th-century average. 2019 was the second warmest year on record. Earth’s global average temperature was 0.95 degree C above the 20-th century average in 2019. Nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2005.

The number and cost of disasters are increasing over time due to a combination of increased exposure (i.e., values at risk of possible loss), vulnerability and that climate change is increasing the frequency of some types of extremes. The economic costs of natural disasters are huge and it takes a long time for the affected region to make a comeback into the mainstream.

Greenhouse gases (GHG) occur naturally and are essential to the survival of humans and millions of other living things. It helps in retaining some of the sun’s heat and makes Earth liveable. Due to industrialization, deforestation, and large-scale agriculture, quantities of GHGs in the atmosphere have risen to record levels. The trend of increasing GHGs will continue with growing populations, economies and standards of living.

Environment and Economy

The inequality between countries is getting reduced at a decent pace, but the environmental cost of this progress is heavier for some countries. We don’t have to wait for the future to experience the impact of global warming. Much of the research on the social and economic impacts of climate change looked into the future, years or decades or centuries ahead. But in recent years, scientists have begun to share exact calculations of how much climate change has already affected us. Of the 19 countries with the highest total CO2 emissions from 1961 to 2010, 14 experienced an economic bump from warming.


The global population is estimated to reach eight billion in 2024. The difference between the urban and rural population is widening at an unsustainable pace, with the former racing ahead unabated. In 2008, over half of the world’s population lived in urban areas. Developing countries are firing on all cylinders to register economic growth. Consumption of resources at this unprecedented pace is necessary to lift millions out of abject poverty, but the environmental impact will be catastrophic. Due to this reason, developed nations need to pledge larger cuts in GHG emissions.

COVID-19 and Emissions

The economic downturn and the global lockdown led to a reduction of CO2 emissions by 17 percent, with the aviation industry experiencing the largest reduction due to travel restrictions and closed borders. On the other hand, residential emissions grew by nearly three percent as more people stayed at home and worked from home. Still, decreasing commuter numbers had positive effects on passenger emissions, which can contribute to pursuing international as well as national climate goals. The COVID-19 related economic downturn will lead to an unprecedented reduction in CO2 of up to 2.6 Gigaton in 2020, the largest decline observed so far. This would equal a decline of up to eight percent compared to 2019.

Surviving Climate Change

The foremost mitigation measure is to reduce GHG emissions, followed by the cautious use of resources and sustainable economic growth. Natural systems are adaptable, but with the accelerated rate of emissions, it is impossible to rely on nature alone to do its job. Decarbonisation is most important to reach net-zero CO2 emissions. Presently, electric vehicles are not within the reach of everyone. Aspiration and recreation make internal combustion engines the preferred choice across the world.

Asia is taking a lead in generation of renewable energy, while Europe and North America are finally ramping up investment in green energy sources. Technology has to outpace itself in order to save our planet from an impending implosion.

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