Only the End and No Endgame in Climate Change
11 December 2021
"By 2050 coastal Bharat will witness annual flooding risking the lives and livelihoods of nearly 7 cr+....."
The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its second part of the 6th Assessment report which deals with climate change impact, its risks and vulnerabilities and the adaptation measures and has a special mention for our beloved city of Mumbai. We will come to that later.
The Earth needs Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in its atmosphere to sustain the natural greenhouse effect that prevents freezing. Less than one per cent of CO2 is on the top of the earth i.e. on land, oceans and ocean floors, atmosphere and in life forms. The Rest - an estimated approximately 2 billion Giga Tons is inside the earth i.e. in the Mantle and cores of the earth. Carbon continues to be released from the interior of the earth from Volcanoes and divergence of tectonic plates and at the same time sequestrating it inside with the downward subduction of oceanic plates.
The Industrial revolution started from the mid-16th century and is said to be the start of the Anthropogenic (The Anthropocene Epoch is an unofficial unit of geologic time, used to describe the most recent period in Earth's history when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet's climate and ecosystems) before that the earth atmosphere was fairly balanced. The amount of Carbon dioxide emitted in the atmosphere through natural processes like the volcanoes, wildfire was countered rightly with weathering of rocks, increased soil fertility with burned biomass mixing in earth and above all with downward subduction of oceanic plates. There had been five mass extinctions so far in the past 500 million years because the carbon cycle was disrupted and the sixth one is attributed to Human activities.
Bharat is one of the most vulnerable countries globally whose population will be severely affected by rise in sea levels.
The world's oceans and permafrost regions (cryosphere) are warming from climate change for decades. The heat and humidity are creating conditions that will be beyond human tolerance. The bad news is - Bharat is counted among the worst place to be hit by heat waves. The Climate does not differentiate between poor population and rich population. Political borders are not existential for global warming. The average temperature rise of the last 30 years i.e. 1991-2020 was close to 0.9 C. In 2021, the annual average temperature was above 1.1 - 1.2 C above pre-industrial levels. If the current rate of emission continues to be the average warming of the globe would be anywhere between 2.7 C to 3.7 C above the Pre-Industrial levels. The trend is obviously upwards but with the finance and technology from the developed countries, it would be within human capacity to limit the global temperature to 1.5 C.
What will happen if the temperature goes beyond 1.5 C?
14% of species on the planet will face extinction. Fragile ecosystems like coral reefs will be lost forever. There will be a decline in agricultural yield. Also the agricultural yield especially rice will be less nutritious, threatening a lot of the nation's nutritional security. The Green revolution belt, the rice bowl of Bharat - Punjab has reached the level of Over-exploited groundwater which means the groundwater extraction is more than 100%, another threat to food security as Rice is our staple food. The remaining standing crop will be infested with pests and diseases. There will be frequent locust attacks as we saw in late 2019. Warmth and Humidity are conducive environments for their breeding. A small swarm that contains nearly 40 million insects can eat as much as 2500 people eat in a day. Ocean warming will reduce mixing between water layers and as a consequence supply of O2 and nutrients will decrease which will result in toxin-producing algae and our marine life will be wiped out.
By 2050 coastal Bharat will witness annual flooding risking the lives and livelihoods of nearly 7 crore plus coastal population. Mumbai perhaps may not remain as the most important financial city and mass dissertation of the city could take place. The wet-bulb temperature of Mumbai would be extreme and unsurvivable. The global rise in sea level during the 20th century was 15 cm. It is rising twice as fast as it was during the 20th Century and may reach 40 cm above sea level by 2050. Considering this, Bharat’s numbers would be higher than the global average as it is going to be one of the worst-hit places. The damage from sea-level rise would be so enormous that it will eat a big chunk of our GDP. The damage caused in Mumbai could alone be approximately $200 Billion.
Bharat is very ambitious when it comes to Nationally Determined contributions. She has made a lot of enhancements in the COP summit of November 2021 over what she had committed in 2015 like 50% of energy from renewable sources by 2030, net-zero by 2070 etc. Bharat is choosing to be in a central position in all International issues including climate change. It is time to change the foundations of how we run our societies and nation. It's time to look at People and the planet as one whole ecology, that we are interconnected, that all animate-inanimate things come out of the same soil.
The only concept that governs climate change is the Hindu Concept of Karma. Karma establishes a perfect consequential relation between Humans and Nature which runs both ways. You take out all the oil from beneath the sea (underworld), a day will come when all the accumulated carbon is thrown out in the atmosphere and the reverse cycle of the planet begin to establish the balance. This event can be termed as "Colossal Rectification" or "Mass Extinction" or "Rebirth"(Samsara) whatever suits your taste. Climate Change is just like "Thanos", it's inevitable.