DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS
10 June, 2020
7 Min Read
Flattening the climate curve
R. Sukumar is professor, Centre for Ecological Sciences and Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
Part of: GS-III- Climate Change (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Leaders should act on the climate crisis with the same alacrity they have shown towards COVID-19
Two interrelated curves began their upward trend two centuries ago with the advent of the industrial age. The first curve was the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (or, more generally, all greenhouse gases, GHGs) and the second was the average global temperature curve.
An upward trend
What climate change includes
For the sake of illustration, let us focus only on temperature change
Tackling the climate crisis
The most common excuse is that the world cannot afford to curb GHG emissions for fear of wrecking the economy. An article in Nature in 2019 highlighted the financial dimensions of tackling the looming climate crisis.
Apparently, the wealthy nations are spending over $500 billion each year internally on projects aimed at reducing emissions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, however, estimates that a sustained annual investment of $2.4 trillion in more efficient energy systems is needed until 2035 in order to keep warming below the more ambitious 1.5?C relative to pre-industrial levels.
To put this in perspective, that is about 2.5% of the global GDP.
Some of the wrangling over money relates to the amounts that the wealthy nations, which have caused most of the GHGs resulting in global warming, agreed to pay other countries to cope with climate change.
At the UN Climate Conference in 2009, the richest nations had pledged to provide $100 billion in aid each year by 2020 to the poorer countries for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
In 2017, for which data are available, only $71 billion had been provided, with most of the money going towards mitigation and less than 20% towards climate adaptation.
Such numbers had been challenged prior to the 2015 Paris Summit by many countries, including India, because much of the so-called aid provided did not come out of dedicated climate funds but, rather, development funds or simply loans which had to be repaid.
It thus seems unlikely that the rich countries will deliver $100 billion in tangible climate finance during 2020.
Covid and Climate change
COVID-19 has elicited an unprecedented response worldwide. Only cognitive psychologists can explain why the spectre of dangerous climate change impacting human civilizations has not yet evoked a comparable response. There seems to be wishful thinking that technology can be used to suck out billions of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and store this safely somewhere, but available ones are extremely slow and expensive. Harebrained schemes to regulate solar radiation by geo-engineering are bound to bring nasty surprises. There is no substitute to reducing GHG emissions. Technologists, economists and social scientists must plan for a sustainable planet based on the principles of equity and climate justice within and across nations. It is the responsibility of leaders to alter their mindset and act on the looming climate crisis with the same alacrity they have shown on COVID-19.
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