Weekly Current Affairs

Planet-saving climate goal difficult to achieve, say experts [Environment]

  • The global target to prevent climate catastrophe, crafted at a landmark summit last year in Paris, will be very difficult, if not impossible, to hit, said some of world’s top scientists.
  • The first-ever climate pact to enjoin all nations vows to cap global warming at “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-Industrial Revolution levels - and under 1.5 C (2.7 F) if possible.
  • The 1.5° C target took the scientific community by surprise.
  • The question stretches back to the chaotic Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, which nearly derailed more than a decade of UN talks, set the threshold for dangerous global warming at 2 C.
  • Recent crescendo of devastating impacts - heat waves, deadly flooding, storm surges fuelled by rising seas - pushed world leaders to inscribe more demanding temperature targets in the Paris pact, inked by 195 nations in December.
  • The effort was led by small island nations, some of which are likely to disappear under the waves within decades.
  • Major emerging economies, notably India, went along despite fears that the new threshold would be a brake on economic development.
  • On current trajectories, the world is set to warm at least 3 C (5.4 F) by the century’s end, a recipe for human misery and species extinction on a global scale.
  • The inclusion of 1.5 C - even as an aspirational goal - was hailed as a political victory, especially by poor, climate-vulnerable nations.
  • Top climate scientists gathered in Oxford to help fill this knowledge gap, and to funnel raw material for a major review - mandated by the Paris Agreement - to be delivered in mid-2018.
  • The bad news is that we are already two-thirds of the way there, noting that average global temperatures in 2015 - the hottest year on record - were a full degree higher than 150 years ago.
  • A 2°C cap on warming was already seen as hugely ambitious, both technically and politically.
  • The danger is that it will push us to look at geo-engineering solutions rather than how to achieve deep decarbonisation i.e. slashing the output of greenhouse gases that heat the atmosphere and oceans.
  • But despite a boom in renewables, emissions have continued to grow, putting even a 2°C target out of reach unless engineers find ways to suck CO2 out of the air and store it underground -- so-called “negative emissions.”