Get serious on climate change

Get serious on climate change

The earth is set to get hotter, whether the emissions are cut or not

Representative image. Credit: Getty.

A recent study of climate change, published in Scientific Reports, a Nature journal, which suggests that global warming is now irreversible and that the earth is past the tipping point on climate, has caused alarm, and also scepticism, and even anger. The study is based on a model developed by Norwegian researchers who charted changes in climate from 1850 to 2500. Two scenarios were envisaged, one in which there is immediate achievement of zero greenhouse gas emissions and another in which gradual reductions are made till 2100. It was found that the earth will continue to warm over the next five centuries and it will be warmer by 3.0 degrees Centigrade by 2500. The only difference between the two futures is that the extreme situation will happen faster in the second scenario. The conclusion is that the earth is set to get hotter, whether the emissions are cut or not. 

Many scientists have found fault with the study on various grounds. Modelling need not be accurate, especially if the inputs are not correct. Many factors that influence climate are still not known and there is a paucity of data on events of the past. It is not possible to predict climatic events of the coming year with reasonable accuracy. Then how can the state of climate over the next few hundred years be predicted? These are legitimate doubts and questions but the scientists who developed the model claim that the study is based on an adequate amount of reliable and necessary data. Opinions are sharply divided on climate change. There are some who deny it altogether, and others who exaggerate it.

If the predictions are taken seriously, the decisions under the Paris Accord will fall far short of meeting the challenge. The Paris Accord is the best agreement made so far, and even its limited efficacy is conditional to US participation. All countries are found wanting on compliance and there is still no agreement on how its 1.5 degree Centigrade temperature target can be achieved. The authors of the study suggest that it is time to think of unconventional solutions like sucking out carbon from the atmosphere, along with implementing more drastic actions than prescribed under the Paris Accord. Whether the doomsday scenario comes true or not, the study underlines the need for the world to get more serious about climate change. It should be noted that every day of non-action on climate might make it more difficult to take effective action later, and bring the doomsday closer by more than a day. The study should be taken as a reminder of that.