A climate emergency is at hand

A climate emergency is at hand

There is no dearth of proof of the harmful impact of human activities on the earth’s environment, and observations and scientific studies over many decades have pointed them out. Reports of many credible organisations that have studied the changes in the environment have confirmed these conclusions, and so they should be taken as reminders of the task to be undertaken to avert the catastrophe that lies ahead. The State of India’s Environment 2020 report, released last week, is one such reminder. The report notes that at least one extreme weather event happened almost every month in India in 2018 and 2019 and more and more people are at risk from these events. In 2019, 2,038 people died due to such events, compared to 1,396 in 2018. While these events are not new, the report notes that their nature has changed and there is the stamp of global warming on them now. 

There are other reports that show that natural processes like El Nino, which influence the monsoon rainfall in a large part of the world, including India, have become more erratic. Rising sea levels are threatening the very existence of some countries. There was less snowfall in North America this winter and the recent devastating bush fires in Australia may have been caused by more than normal summer temperatures. A scientific body in the US has said that January this year was the hottest January in the history of recorded temperature. It is recognised that much of the climate change threat arises from global warming. The Paris Agreement of 2015 was an acknowledgment of that. The agreement itself is considered inadequate, but there is no agreement even on implementing its provisions. The world also has to contend with climate change deniers like US President Donald Trump.

When conditions like drought, wildfire, flood, landslides, extreme temperatures, fog and storms occur with greater frequency, they will disrupt economic and social life on a scale hitherto unseen. There will be severe impact on the lives of individuals and families. The report says that the continuity of extreme weather events puts the world on its toes and scientists and environmentalists have called it a climate emergency. Agriculture, industry, health, education, livelihood and all other aspects of life are set to be affected, and climate migration may present a new social threat which will have economic and political consequences. One bright aspect of the gloomy situation is that more and more people, especially young people and even children, are becoming aware of the danger posed by climate change and other environment-related challenges. Will public pressure resulting from such awareness push governments into taking meaningful action against climate change? 

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