The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, aimed to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate. Anthropogenic refers to the impact of human beings on nature, particularly on the Earth’s climate system. However, despite this convention, world emissions and growth rates have been increasing each year without proper control on emissions.
Although there have been many technological advancements that promote a cleaner environment, reduced energy usage, and improved air quality, the demand for such technologies exceeds the initial emission and energy savings.
When we consider a 2-degree Celsius global temperature increase, it is challenging to imagine the air over our towns, villages, or cities heating up, and it seems like it is not a big deal. However, the difference between today’s temperature and the ice age is only 5ºC, which took around 10,000 years to warm up. In contrast, such a massive temperature change can occur in just 200 years if we fail to stop emissions quickly.
The sea acts as a giant heat sponge that absorbs all the extra heat above it. But, just like a real sponge, as soon as it gets squeezed, the water leaks out, and the sea is no different. Warmer waters result in more rain, and significant changes in local temperatures always follow. Even if there are no more emissions released worldwide by next week, the Earth’s temperature will still rise by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050 due to existing emissions with lifecycles of over 100 years. This guarantees a temperature increase that will affect the climate for the next several decades.
We need to focus on long-term action-based plans for the coming decades instead of short-term, short-sighted plans. A shift in average climate heat increases can lead to catastrophic results, causing society to break down, and the new temperature increases will cause new feedbacks.
We know it is crucial for Earth’s temperature not to exceed a 2 degrees Celsius warming, yet we make plans as if we are unaware of this valuable information. Thankfully, some scientists are advocating for a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature increase as our target, which is more achievable than the current 2-degree target, but it still requires significant global effort.
It is like having a bank account where we keep making withdrawals without depositing any money, and when we get close to the overdraft stage, we start thinking of taking action, but it’s too late. Anytime we are informed that we need to do something about the state of the account, the universal response is to come up with another new plan to start sometime in the future. The target year of 2050 may seem far away, but cutting emissions by 50% by then sounds good, except most of today’s emissions will spend between 2 and 150 years hovering in the atmosphere, and most of the effects of CO2 last for many hundreds of years.
India is currently the biggest threat to world climate emissions, with an emission growth rate of 7.5% every year since 2000, sneaking up behind China, which overshadows India’s GDP rates and emissions. Economists have misled the public and private sectors by suggesting that China cannot maintain its growth rates, but year on year, China has outperformed the market, and the same is happening in India.
It is estimated that the industrialized nations (Annex I countries) will have their emissions peaking between 2015 and 2020. However, both China’s and India’s emissions will peak at the same time, around 2030. By then, India
will be producing over 7 gigatonnes of emissions annually, which is the same volume as China. This means that by 2030, China and India will individually produce more emissions than the rest of the world combined.
The emissions in the troposphere and atmosphere today are already higher than what the world can sustain without exceeding a 2 degrees Celsius temperature increase. Leaders must make major long-term plans for life on Earth after temperatures increase. It is pointless for developed countries to make emissions plans, strategies, and cuts while developing countries (due to their growth rates and improved lifestyles) are producing more emissions than ever before.
This is often referred to as climate injustice, a scenario that only worsens if the industrialized world fails to continue growing, as it will hinder the growth of the developing world. Transboundary air pollution cannot be stopped, even if our emissions drop. Every city is a potential particulate matter harvesting hub, and Earth is a total system that cannot eat itself.
We cannot live on Earth after 2100 without climate conflict if we cannot prevent the temperature from increasing more than 2-3 degrees higher than the time of the industrial revolution.