Climate Change Is No Science Fiction
Hira Bahadur Thapa
The Secretary-General of World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Petteri Taalas has said “climate change is a reality and not a science fiction”. Periodic scientific studies are a proof. Some climate change deniers surprisingly oppose this.
Nevertheless, International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN scientists’ body, has presented credible evidence of climate change and warned the world community of impending danger if irreversible climate disruption is not prevented.
The August 1, 2019 data of the WMO reveal alarming picture of unprecedented rise in global temperatures in Europe. The WMO has further clarified that the month of 2019 July has surpassed the records of global temperatures. This July was marginally warmer than the previous warmest July 2016.
More elaborately the WMO has claimed that July 2019 was around 1.2 degree Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial area. This is why Antonio Gueterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, has observed that “extreme weather events are just the tip of the iceberg, and, indeed the iceberg is also rapidly melting".
In the opinion of WMO chief July has rewritten climate history of the planet. Dozens of new temperature records at local, national and global levels have been maintained. Extraordinary heat led to dramatic ice melt in Greenland, in the Arctic and on European glaciers.
Concrete evidence of climate change is seen in unprecedented wildfires in the Arctic. This has led to the devastation of once pristine forest, which used to sequester carbon dioxide. This gas has been the leading source of global warming, which climate science has established.
Even at the time of writing this opinion piece Amazon rainforest, the major part of which lies in Brazil besides covering Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia, in South America, was raging in fires, which attracted the attention of the leaders of G-7, a group of highly industrialised nations.
The devastation that will have been caused by this fire will be enormous. Amazon forests cover such a vast area and offer habitat for a large number of plants and animals. The destruction of forests has direct implications on humankind because they are considered to be the human lungs in view of absorbing capacity for carbon dioxide.
The world community has been lobbying for reforestation as this helps reduce carbon emissions through sequestration. We have learned about a programme being launched by the UN that incentivizes countries like ours by offering funds to expand forested areas, the spillover effects of which will benefit the wider communities by absorbing the greenhouse gases. Nepal has been one of the beneficiaries of such projects.
A recent study of NASA has revealed that global temperature rise has shown its worst effect on Greenland where layers of ice sheets are melting more rapidly. Depleting glaciers have enormous environmental damage by making the lives of ocean animals more difficult because snow melting will deprive them of their natural habitat. Animal like polar beer will face extinction should ice continues melting at the present speed.
The WMO experts believe that should greenhouse emissions go up pushing global temperatures higher new records of ice melting and extreme heatwaves will be forthcoming. Heatwaves will further raise the possibilities of burning vegetation as seen in the Amazon rain forest and Arctic region and Indonesia, which exacerbates the compounding problem of climate change. More fires mean less absorbing capacity of the biosphere to limit carbon dioxide.
Many scientific studies have established the link between climate change and heatwaves. In the 2014 Fifth Assessment Report, IPCC has said “it is very likely that human influence has contributed to the observed global scale changes in the frequency and intensity of daily temperature extremes since the mid- twentieth century. It is likely that human influence has more than doubled the probability of occurrence of heatwaves in some locations”.
In another report the IPCC has warned that with global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase. Increasing evidence of rising temperatures and climate change has prompted scientists to revise their prediction of likely destruction to humankind. Now their argument is that to save humanity from climate change catastrophe, the global temperature rise must not cross the limit of 1.5 degree Celsius compared to pre- industrial level.
The incumbent Secretary-General of the UN has held high hopes on the upcoming Climate Action Summit, which will be held later this month in New York, when the current 74th regular session of UN General Assembly will be in progress. Then Nepal as world's fourth most vulnerable climate change country will be sending a high- level delegation to draw global attention to her problems caused by climate change despite the country's negligible carbon emissions level. Countries like ours have dilemmas of being the worst sufferers even without producing global carbon emissions. The world community has the moral obligation to support our endeavours to fight climate change crisis since we are resource-constrained.
Interestingly, young climate activists like Greta Thunberg, a teenage Swede, are taking keen interest in creating climate awareness because today's failure to tackle the crisis will significantly affect their future. Quite adventurously, she has arrived Manhattan to participate in climate summit after a 15- day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from Britain as a passenger on a spartan, high-tech multi-million dollar ocean-retching yatch.
How the world leaders gathered there will receive her message of urgent need for cutting down the carbon emission level is another question though serious action on reducing greenhouse gases has no alternative for our planet to sustain any more.
(Thapa was Foreign Relations Advisor to the Prime Minister from 2008 to 2009. He writes on contemporary national and international issues. He can be reached at email@example.com)