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Climate talks for COP 25 began under a cloud. They were originally supposed to be held in Brazil, but it pulled out after right-winger Jair Bolsonaro became president last year. The next host, Chile, had to abandon the summit after an outbreak of anti-government protests. Spain stepped in as the last-minute replacement. Disconnect was the key word for this summit, as it is clear from the following:

1. No agreement on carbon markets The talks just about collapsed over sharp disagreements over Article 6- which also torpedoed last year's climate talks in Katowice, Poland. For many countries, setting up a global system of carbon markets and offsets is seen as crucial to reaching the goal of the Paris Agreement — limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, and if possible to as little as 1.5 degrees. But a group of countries led by Brazil, backed by India but also including rich nations such as Australia, fought for a set of rules that much of the rest of the world considered fatally flawed. Brazil insisted that any emissions reductions from its massive forests or other projects could be used both for its own Paris targets, as well as by the countries that pay it. Opponents called that “double counting” and refused to go along. The issue is back on the agenda for more rounds of climate talks next year.

2. Agreement on emissions reductions Delegates on the last day did agree on stronger language for countries to boost their climate goals. The decision to increase climate ambition in national contributions to respond to the climate emergency was what is needed. But it was below what's expected “in terms of increasing ambition at the level that is demanded in the streets. The summit was also a tight balancing act for European nations, which repeatedly said they couldn't support an outcome that didn't include a strong message on polluters to update their climate pledges by next year. That's especially important for EU as it's working to adopt higher targets for 2030 and 2050, and wants to ensure other emitters, especially China, follow suit.

3. Financial shortfall to meet the targets Developing and emerging countries complained that the focus on cutting emissions was undermining their call to boost funding to adapt to climate change and deal with the destruction of climate-related shocks. Many developing countries’ national climate plans are meaningless if we can’t back them with finance. Despite the disappointment, negotiations in Madrid for the first time opened the door to promoting financial support in the future as European countries started to recognise vulnerable countries' financing needs. The island nations in particular are looking for greater support.

4. A divide between old and new emitters Emerging and traditional polluters faced-off over responsibility to cut emissions. Developing countries accused rich countries of falling short on financial support, and vulnerable island nations, on the front lines of climate change, were caught in the middle. Political polarization between the world’s major powers spilled over into the negotiations, undermining the spirit of the Paris Agreement. China, India and Brazil were exhorted to boost their climate goals. The Paris Agreement was meant to paper over those divisions to ensure that all sides speed up their climate plans from 2020. But many countries are digging in their heels as the deadline approaches. The outcome of COP25 is very ambiguous even after such a time-consuming summit. It’s the second year in a row that countries failed to agree on carbon market rules. Whether an acceptable breakthrough can occur next year in Glasgow is uncertain. A lot also depends on whether the EU can convince China, to go along with more ambitious climate plans next year.

Seema Malik


Planet Earth has had a tough year. At the poles, ice is melting like never before. In the tropics, hurricanes defied expectations. In temperate areas, extreme heat waves and cold snaps broke temperature records. Forests burned across the globe. Scientists say climate likely played a role in the severe polar vortex event that engulfed North America, the deadly summer heatwaves in Europe, and the devastatingly slow movement of Hurricane Dorian. Here are some points about the record shattering extreme weather.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide has reached its highest level ever That’s because fossil fuels like coal contain carbon dioxide, methane, and other compounds that trap heat from the sun. When we extract and burn these fuels for energy, that releases those gases into the atmosphere, where they accumulate and heat up the Earth over time.

Climate change is already leading to extreme weather that breaks records The year began with a record-shattering polar vortex that engulfed the US Midwest and eastern Canada, killing at least 21 people. Scientist are starting to understand how rapid warming in the Arctic can make cold snaps like this more frequent.

Since Arctic temperatures are rising, the difference between the temperatures at the North Pole and lower latitude is decreasing Less disparity in temperatures means less difference between air-pressure levels, which weakens the jet stream that corals freezing Arctic air around the North Pole. That weakness allow Arctic air to creep south, towards North America, Europe and Asia.

Extreme weather in the first six months of 2019 displaced a record seven million people worldwide

Cyclone Fani (which struck India and Bangladesh) and cyclone Idai (off the southeastern coast of Africa) forced about four million people to evacuate. Typhoon Hagibis caused unprecedented damage in Japan, with some areas receiving 40% of their rain in a single day.

Two record-breaking heat waves swept across Europe – one in June, then another in July

Cities across Europe saw their hottest days ever. Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the UK, and the Netherlands recorded temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius for the first time. The town of Gallargues-le-Montueux on France’s southern coast hit a blistering 45.9 degrees Celsius. Had anyone heard of that temperature in western Europe before?

When the European heatwave washed over Greenland, it induced ice melt that even the most pessimistic climate models hadn’t expected to see until 2070 The ice sheet lost 55 billion tonnes of water over five days in July and August, which is enough to cover the state of Florida in almost five inches of water. It’s sad that the frozen frontiers of the earth are also melting, causing sweeping changes in climate.

Ahead of the UN Climate Change conference which began on 2nd December at Madrid, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterras said that the climate crisis could soon reach the “point of no return. What is still lacking is political will”. Food for thought!

Seema Malik

Air Pollution – A 'Climate Emergency'

Some call it “capital punishment” that kills slowly; others simply put it as air pollution — a lethal cocktail of toxic gases spewing from vehicle exhausts and factories mixed with dust and microscopic particles that sticks to human lung walls like industrial sludge. The surge in air pollution is an alarming regular occurrence and has turned India's Capital Into a gas chamber leading to 'Public Health and Climate Emergency.' Delhi was already considered one of the world’s most polluted cities, and it’s only gotten worse this month. Air quality deteriorated so significantly that the local government declared a public health emergency, schools were shut down, and flights were cancelled. By one estimate, breathing Delhi’s air for one day has the health impacts of smoking at least 50 cigarettes per day.

Delhi typically experiences “striking spikes in air pollution” in the late-fall early-winter time period, although the deterioration of air quality this year is particularly concerning as the air pollution levels in soared to hazardous levels, leaving a toxic grey haze hanging over the city and causing poor visibility. The pollution has been so pervasive that national monuments were largely obscured by the thick smog. Many who ventured outside had teary eyes and troubling coughs. A combination of human and environmental factors, including agricultural crop burning to clear fields and fumes from passenger and freight vehicles, combined to create a perfect storm of pollution. Delhi is quietly suffering from dire paediatric respiratory crises and as gained the unique recognition of being responsible for destroying the lungs of its own children.

A recent study showing that nearly half of Delhi’s 4.4 million school children suffer from irreversible lung damages from the poisonous air as its levels in the city continue to spike daily with no respite to been seen in the near future. The facts thrown up by the survey confirm the worst fears of young lungs being killed by rising level of air pollution. Weak lungs in children are not the only concern of thousands of parents whose children are suffering from severe respiratory problems, due their inability to deal with the rising pollutants and toxic material in air. Spending just a few minutes in Delhi’s polluted air exposes children to many problems like eye irritation, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, bronchitis, etc.

Toxins, gases and other pollutant hang low when the sky is overcast which aggravates asthma and Delhi’s air specifically has thus left its kids gasping for breath. Children are the worst hit because of their developing immune system, lungs and airways are not as a strong as those of adults. As a result, children with severe asthmatic and respiratory disorder is going up and their hospitalisation has almost doubled over the past two years. Continuous inhalation of such toxins leads to Impairment in concentration abilities, insomnia and mood swings, chronic bronchitis as these pollutants directly reaches to our bloodstream and accumulates abnormal gases in our bodies. It’s been a fortnight that Delhites are breathing toxic are with AQI crossing permissible limits. Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 is entering our lungs and bloodstream and causing deterioration to our health. Once these ultra-fine particles enter our lungs, even short-term exposure to these small particles is enough to cause serious long-term health problems, they cannot be cleansed. If they combine with haemoglobin in the body, it causes symptoms such as headache, dizziness and unconsciousness. Thus, air pollution not only lead to health problems in children, it also jeopardise their childhood forcing them to keep themselves indoors spending all day playing video games or watching TV and forcing them to sacrifice their basic right – OUTDOOR PLAY.

Seema Malik

IPCC Brown to Green Report 2019

2020 is a vital year; higher ambition and quicker action is needed to respond to climate impacts. According to the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C, global CO2 emissions need to decrease to net zero by 2050 in order to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C . If we continue at current emissions levels, the remaining carbon budget to stay below 1.5°C, will be expended in just over nine years. Current Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) would lead to about 3°C of global temperatures above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century and global Green House Gases emissions continue to climb. At warming levels beyond 1.5°C, climate impacts will become stronger and there is a growing risk that critical tipping points will be crossed, at which point the Earth’s system will experience major and largely irreversible changes. These tipping points will lead to the catastrophic rise of sea levels, as well as increased droughts and floods that put livelihoods at risk. Therefore, 2020 is the critical year to ramp up climate ambition.

Countries must submit their updated NDCs with more ambitious emission-reduction targets as well as their long-term strategies (LTS). To keep the 1 .5°C limit attainable, more ambitious 2030 targets through the NDCs and increased action in the next decade are crucial. The UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019 marked the official start of a new wave of political momentum necessary to raise climate ambitions by 2020 in line with the Paris goals. Few G20 countries spoke with any specificity about enhancing their NDCs at the summit. Some major G20 countries, however, have not yet signalled that they are ready to commit to a net – zero emissions future. They have the political responsibility as well as economic interest and capability to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

G20 countries are responsible for approximately 80% of global GHG emissions. They account for 85% of the global GDP, two thirds of global outward foreign direct investment flows, and the majority of the funds of multilateral development banks. The decisions of G20 countries influence financial flows, technological innovation, lifestyle choices, and business models worldwide. In a number of G20 countries, climate change is now seen as a top international threat (next to terrorism and cyberattacks). It is in the G20 countries’ economic interest to act to prevent economic losses from climate impacts and stranded assets. More ambitious climate action improves health and yields economic gains. The Brown to Green Report takes stock of the climate actions of G20 countries in the context of 1.5°C benchmarks. The report describes and compares G20 countries’ performance in the areas of adaptation, mitigation and finance. It thereby complements the UN Global Stockchecking that assesses collective action towards the Paris Agreement goals. Through the report’s independent country comparisons, it enables peer pressure and learning across the G20 countries.

Major Highlights of the Report 1. Currently, extreme weather events lead to around 16,000 deaths and economic losses of US$ 142 billion in G20 countries every year. 2. Limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C – rather than 3°C – reduces negative impacts across sectors in G20 countries by over 70%. 3. All G20 countries have adaptation plans with the exception of Saudi Arabia. 4. G20 energy-related CO2 emissions increased in 2018 by 1.8% because of high economic growth and an ever greater fossil fuel energy supply. 5. G20 countries need to cut their current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 45% in 2030 (below 2010 levels) to be in line with global benchmarks. 6. About half of the G20 countries are projected to meet or surpass their NDC targets, excluding land use, land-use change, and forestry emissions. 7. There is an increasing drive that has built momentum for net-zero emissions targets. France and UK have net-zero 2050 emissions goals enshrined in law. 8. Transport emissions of the G20 continued to increase in 2018 (+1.2%). To keep global warming below 1.5°C, the share of low-carbon fuels in the G20 transport fuel mix (6%) would need to increase roughly ten times by 2050. 9. G20 emissions in the building sector grew more than in any other sector in 2018 (+4.1%), although on average emissions had stabilised over the last decade 10.Less consumption of animal products will lower G20 emissions in agriculture. High deforestation rates in Argentina, Australia, Brazil and Indonesia must be cut.

Seema Malik


The World’s oceans are getting warmer, stormier and more acidic. They are becoming less productive as the ecosystems within them collapse. Melting glacier and ice sheets are causing sea levels to rise, increasing the risk of inundation and devastation to hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas. The latest special report from the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), on how the oceans and frozen regions of the planet are changing in response to the rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, is a predictably grim read.

For decades, the oceans have provided a buffer against the full impact of a warming planet. Since 1970, says the report, they have soaked up more than 90% of the excess heat associated with greenhouse gases and absorbed around a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted from cars, power stations and factories. As oceans warm, the layer of water within them mix less and the supply of oxygen and nutrients decreases. The upper layers of the world’s seas have lost 1-3% of their oxygen in recent years and the increased absorption of CO2 has made the water more acidic, complicating life for creatures such as coral that need to build carbonate shells. As this continues, the report predicts that around 15% of animals are likely to disappear by the end of the century, and that fish catches could decline by as much as a quarter relative to average levels between 1986 and 2005.

Farther toward the poles, the permafrost-permanently frozen soil-is at risk. Even if the average global temperature increase is limited to 2° C above pre industrial levels-already an ambitious target-a quarter will thaw. If greenhouse gas emission and temperatures increase further, almost 70% of this near-surface permafrost could melt. Frozen in that earth are 1,460-1,600 giga-tons of carbon, says the report, almost twice the amount already in the atmosphere, much of which could be released if the soil thaws.

The recently held UN Climate summit concluded with a torrent of new announcements. There was a commitment by 65 countries and the European Union to reach net-zero carbon emissions taking as much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as they are putting in-by 2050. Germany, Slovakia and other joined an alliance to halt the construction of coal plants; 32 countries are now members. Companies and investors announced measures to reduce emissions from shipping, buildings and more. Our prime minister, set a new 450-gigawatt target for his country’s renewable-energy capacity, more than five times the current level. This is an ambitious announcement but even if all the pledges are acted upon, the gap between what the summit promised and what needs to be done remains a chasm.

59 countries said that they would shortly be unveiling more ambitious commitments under the Paris agreement, which aims to keep global temperatures “well below” 2° C above those in pre-industrial times; a global round of such increased commitments is to be negotiated next year. 87 companies, pledged to reach net zero emissions in their businesses by 2050. Jeff Bezos did them ten years better, announcing that Amazon would reach net zero emissions by 2040 and that it was buying 100,000 electric lorries to move towards that goal. They are trying to reduce energy consumption in their supply chains and in the way their products are used, too. Changes are coming but they have to continue. "We need clear ambitions and concrete initiatives", as the UN’s Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said in the summit.

Seema Malik

The Warming World

We all know the massive scale of the climate change we face, and we also know we are not on track. That the changing climate touches everything and everyone should be obvious to all of us. What is less obvious, but just as important, is that, because the processes that force climate change are built into the foundations of the world economy and of geopolitics, measures to check climate change have to be similarly wide-ranging and all-encompassing. To de-carbonise an economy is not a simple subtraction; it requires a near-complete overhaul. Whether it is in ensuring a future for the Panama Canal or weaning petrol-head presidents off their refinery habit, climate is never the whole story. Other things matter to Manhattan stockholders and Malawian smallholders. But climate change is an increasingly dangerous context for all their worlds. Climate change is, thus, a dire threat to countless people-one that is planetary in scope if not in its absolute stakes. It will displace tens of millions, it will dry up wells and water mains; it will flood low-laying places-and, as time goes by, higher standing ones, too. True, it will also provide some opportunities, at least in the near term. Change by the people who are most alarmed will not be enough. What is also needed is change in the lives of those who do not yet much care. Climate is matter for the whole of government. But the longer the humanity takes to curb emissions, the greater the dangers and sparser the benefitsand the larger the risk of some truly catastrophic surprises.

It is not a problem that can be put off for a few decades. It is here and now. It is already making extreme events like Hurricane Dorian more likely. Its losses are already there - drab landscapes where the glaciers have died and on reefs bleached of their coral colours. Delay means that mankind will suffer more harm and face a vastly more costly scramble to make up for lost time. The Amazon is not the world’s only smouldering rainforest, alas: fires are also raging in the jungles of Indonesia, blanketing much of south-East Asia in thick smoke. Some 3,300 square kilometers on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo have gone up in flames. But containing the infernos is even harder than usual because of dry weather, which has become more common as the climate changes.

Floods have always plagued Jakarta, but in recent years they have become more severe. Many other cities in Aisa are menaced by the same phenomenon. As the planet heats up, sea levels are rising. Heavy rain-storms are also becoming more frequent and tropical cyclones more intense. Asia’s coastal cities are growing, even as the risk of flooding increases. The number of people living in flood plains in Asia is expected to more than double between 2000 and 2060, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). As cities grow, they exacerbate flood-risk by covering ground that would once have absorbed water with concrete and asphalt. The amount and value of the property at risk also grows. Thirteen of the 20 cities projected to have a biggest increases in annual losses caused by flooding between 2005 and 2050 are in Asia.

An IPCC special report last year observed that human activities have already caused 1 degree celsius of global warming above pre-industrial level. The impact has begun to show up as an increase in the intensity and frequency of the extreme events. In India, it is visible in the pattern of rainfall already. Climate change is destroying ancient olive groves across Southern Europe. Harvests around the world in the underdeveloped countries are declining since they are the ones which pay heavy price for climate change. Hornbeam trees overlooking the Marie Antoinette’s gardens of Versailles are withering. The European Environment Agency estimates that forests absorb 13 percent of all of the Europe’s carbon-dioxide emissions. But more frequent droughts and increasingly violent storms put the region’s woodlands to risk. All these are just some examples of the climate change threat that is looming over us. The Secretary General of UN António Guterres gave the following goals to mitigate the clear and present danger of climate change.

1. Ambition - Countries need to fulfil their pledges for sustainability. They also need to raise their ambition. We need clear moves not only by national governments but also by other actors such as subnational governments, businesses and investors.

2. Transformation of the real economy - We have to focus on the key areas where both the problems, as well as the solutions, lie: Energy transition; Industry transition; Naturebased solutions; Cities and Local Action; Resilience. For this, commitments have to come from governments, business, finance and civil society as concretely as possible.

3. Citizen and youth mobilization - Our younger generations will have to help drive, and complete, the work we start today. We need to harness their energy, invention and political power to raise climate ambition. Could we begin with a climate dialogue in our schools?

Seema Malik

The Amazon Inferno

The world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon spans eight countries and covers 40% of the entire continent of South America. More than 30 million people live in the region along with millions of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The dense forests of Amazon produce about 20% of earth’s oxygen, due to which they are often called “The planet’s lungs”. The engulfing fires, estimated to be around 80,000 in number (as estimated by the Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research) are now threatening the well-being of the world. The European Union’s satellite program shows that the smoke has already covered nearly half of Brazil and is now spilling over to neighbouring Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Already, 20% of the wider Amazon biome has been lost to mining, logging, farming, construction of dams and roads. Currently, the Amazon is a ‘sink’ for carbon dioxide produced all over the world. Plants remove it from the atmosphere and absorb it for photosynthesis, releasing oxygen back to the air. However, the burning forests have turned Amazon to become a net source of carbon dioxide instead of acting like a sink. There are so many fires burning right now that smoke is visible even from space, as captured by the images sent from International Space Station.

Elected as president in October 2018, Jair Bolsonoro made campaign promises to restore the Brazilian economy by exploring Amazon’s economic potential. He has cut the budget of the nation’s environment enforcement agency drastically. His pro-business stand at the cost of environment has emboldened ranchers, farmers and loggers to seize control of Amazonia. The number of fires in the forests are up by 85% from last year. In addition to increasing emissions, this will contribute directly to a change in rainfall pattern, extending the length of dry season, further affecting the biodiversity and human health. Smoke from fires can now even be seen in Argentina.

If you wonder what you can do when there is a human-made catastrophe across the world then here are some suggestions for you. Irrespective of where the deforestation takes place, it is our responsibility to raise a good green cover. Plant more saplings and tend to them to create a natural ecosystem around you. Reduce your paper consumption. Always remember when you trash a paper, somewhere a tree is being cut. Reduce your intake of non-vegetarian food which has a larger carbon footprint. One tree planted and one tree saved by you can go a long way.

Sources- WWF, CNN, NISR, Greenpeace, NASA

Seema Malik

Salient Features of IPCC Report 2019

Land is already under growing human pressure and climate change is adding to these pressures. At the same time, keeping global warming to well below 2ºC can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including land and food, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its latest report on August 8, 2019. This report shows that better land management can contribute to tackling climate change, but is not the only solution. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors is essential if global warming is to be kept to well below 2ºC, if not 1.5ºC

Population goes on rising but land is a finite resource. Land must remain productive to maintain food security as the population increases and the negative impacts of climate change on vegetation increase. This means there are limits to the contribution of land to addressing climate change, for instance, through the cultivation of energy crops and afforestation. It also takes time for trees and soils to store carbon effectively. Bioenergy needs to be carefully managed to avoid risks to food security, biodiversity and land degradation. Desirable outcomes will depend on locally appropriate policies and governance systems.

Not everyone needs to become a vegetarian, to keep the planet from overheating, but it would surely make things easier if they did. The core findings of the report are crystal clear: climate change is threatening the world's food supply, even as the way we produce food fuels global warming. Rising temperatures in tropical zones are starting to shrink yields, displace staple crops, and sap essential nutrients from soil. At the same time, the global food system — from farm to the plate — accounts for at least a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "Special Report". More than a quarter of today's food-related emissions come from cattle and sheep.

The livestock industry is a double climate threat: it replaces carbon dioxide absorbing forests -- notably in sub-tropical Brazil -- with land for grazing and soy crops for cattle feed. The animals also belch huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. On average, red meat requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gases per unit of edible protein than basic plant proteins.

For all these reasons, the IPCC concludes, gravitating towards "balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods" would hugely help the climate change cause. This may sound like a ringing endorsement of vegetarianism, but it doesn't necessarily mean the world must, or should, eschew meat altogether, the IPCC said. Besides "coarse grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds," that "balanced diet" also includes "animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low greenhouse gas emission systems," the report concluded.

On the basis of scientific evidence, we can conclude that there are certain diets that have a lower carbon footprint. A compelling reason not to espouse a purely plant-based diet is that billions of poor people around the world depend on fish, and to a lesser extent meat, for protein and nutrients that may not be readily available elsewhere. A diet that is high on veggies, legumes and nuts, and short on meat, dairy and sugar, is a low carbon footprint diet. Meat consumption has already levelled off in rich nations, where fast food chains are rushing to offer faux meat alternatives. It’s time to think about what we eat, where we source it from and what impact it has on our environment.

Seema Malik

Thirsty Planet - Our Water Footprint

Water creates an environment that sustains and nurtures plants, animals and humans, making the earth a perfect match for life. 70% of our bodies are also made up of water, just as 70% of the Earth is covered by water too. If water is a proxy for life itself, then it is not surprising that its availability is a major concern? Misuse of water may indeed lead to a series of catastrophes. The fundamental problems, however, are neither the scarcity itself, since water is likely to remain abundant enough even for a more populous Earth, nor technical. They are managerial, with failures at economic, cultural and political levels. Bad management is the issue here.

The present-day world provides ample examples of environmental devastation that serve as a warning that water usage has its natural limits. Boats are stranded aground in the middle of nowhere, amid the vanished waters of the world’s fourth largest saline lake, the Aral Sea. Last year, Cape Town in South Africa averted only narrowly to run completely out of water. Four years earlier, Sao Polo in Brazil had teetered on the brink with reservoirs reduced to 5% capacity. UN’s latest annual report on water development notes that more than a quarter of humanity - 1.9 billion people, with 73% of them in Asia - live in areas where water is very scarce. The global water use is six times greater than it was a century ago and it is expected to increase by another 20-50% by 2050.

Three main factors will drive the continued growth in demand: population, prosperity and climate change. In 2050 the number of people in the world is expected to increase to between 9.4 billion and 10.2 billion, from just under 8 billion now. Most of the increase will come in Asia and Africa that are already short of water. People will be leading more water-intensive lifestyles and move into cities, many of them facing acute water shortage. We know that world’s water endowment is highly unequal. Just nine countries account for 60% of all fresh supplies of water. China and India have about 36% of the world’s people but only 11% of its freshwater. Climate change will exacerbate this inequity. Much of the south Asian monsoons, on which the subcontinent’s life hinges, will become more erratic. As a report by the World Bank puts it: “The impact of water scarcity and drought may be even greater, causing long-term harm in ways that are poorly understood and inadequately documented.”

Last October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report comparing the consequences of restraining global temperature rise to 1.4 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level as opposed to 2 degree Celsius. With a 2 degree rise, an additional 8% of the world’s population in 2000 will be exposed to aggravated water scarcity by 2050. But with 1.5 degrees, it falls to 4%. The best way to solve the world’s water woes is to use less of it. Agriculture is the biggest consumer of world’s water. Much of it is wasted. We need to deploy better mechanisms to save water through flood-irrigation and percolation into the soil. People have to be made more aware of water footprint. A less visible but more shocking waste of water is in the form of non-revenue water, that is, water supplied by utilities but never paid for. The problem is more obvious in poor countries.

In almost every aspect of water usage, the scope for minimising use is enormous. It is a matter of incentives. Water efficiency has to become a way of life. Sustainability goals have to be given a priority. Water stressed cities are increasing in number. Waste water, as Israel and Singapore have shown, can be treated as a resource to exploit rather than a problem to dispose of. As the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals acknowledge that water-management has to be integrated and coordinated, it will entail cross border cooperation and community involvement. Finally, there is a question of allocation. Priorities should lie in the hundreds of millions who do not yet have access to safe drinking water. Water management, however sustainable, progressive and integrated, has first to concentrate on access. Money is not a constraint, nor is technology. It is a political choice.

Seema Malik

Carbon Footprint and Climate Change

Carbon Footprint and Climate Change Inspite of the increasing incidence of forest fires and rising global temperatures, most countries of the world are still not on track to reduce their carbon footprint. The pledge made in Paris Agreement has not been fulfilled which is clear from the UNEP’s ‘Emission gap’ report. It says that the countries must raise their ambition to cut down on global emissions by at least three times to meet the 2 degree celsius target. If the emission gap is not closed by 2030, we will not be able to read this target even by 2100. This IPCC report quantifies how disastrous the situation would be if wide sweeping and drastic measures to cut down on carbon footprint are not taken. The evidence presented in this report says so far only 57 countries (representing 60% of global emissions) were on track to do so by 2030. India is not one of them and is likely to miss its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Most biggest contributors are far from achieving this target which is a worrying concern.

Most of the G-20 countries still rely on fossil fuels, almost to the tune of 82%. However, India’s NDC is closest to the 1.5 degree Celsius limit. The recent green policies like the National Electricity Plan, may help us to meet it by 2030. Simultaneously we are also targeting a total forest cover of one third of our land area which currently stands at 24%. It is not a surprise that the world has lost 60% of its biodiversity over the last 50 years only. Clearly human beings are stretching their natural limits too thin, jeopardising bio-capacity (The ability of an ecosystem to renew itself). Our ecological footprint has grown by 190% in the last 50 years, nearly ten times the growth of bio-capacity. There’s a huge pressure on earth and that’s a bad news for all of us. Look at the mismatch! Only about 30% of earth is covered by forest when they are home to 80% of all terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Most of the tropical and subtropical forests have been felled for farming. To meet rising demands of wheat and rice for growing population, natural forest covers have been reduced drastically.

Now let us see what we can do about our increasing ecological footprint and decreasing bio-capacity on our own personal level:

Temperance- Temperance means self-restraint, moderation and discretion. In terms of sustainability, it is required to live within the sustainable limits of the Earth. Profligacy leads to environmental degradation. Can we limit our wastefulness while buying and consuming?

Prudence- Prudence helps create sustainability because it maintains the attitudes of prevention, conservation, caring and mitigation. Can we be wise enough while doing things which have repercussions on the environment?

Fortitude- Sustainability involves not only knowing what is right but also the ability to stick at it, so being sustainable, on an individual level, requires courage, determination and heart. Once we take a pledge for being environmentally conscious, can we stay at it?

Justice- We must do the right thing not just for ourselves, but for the common good and for the environment as well. Sustainability cannot be left to a few, while the rest are profligate. Can we all take responsibility for ourselves?

If we all set our moral compass towards being a responsible citizen of the world, we can achieve much more than we have ever thought of. Environment preservation and conservation is a way of life, not just an agenda to follow.

Seema Malik

Project on Biodiversity

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Reflections on IPCC special report

A recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that global warming must be limited to 1.5 degree celsius in the next twelve years, after which even a rise as small as 0.5 degrees could have devastating effects. Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0 degree Celsius of warming above preindustrial levels. It is likely to reach 1.5 degrees between 2030 and 2050 if it continues unabated. Long term changes have already happened such as sea level rise and erratic weather phenomena across the world.

Now, let’s see what can be the benefits of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. This means Arctic ice remains intact through summers, saving the habitats of polar bears, whales, seals and penguins. The world has already seen unprecedented heat waves and forest fires, raising the number of ‘highly unusual hot days’ Also, large swathes of land suffer from extreme drought now. Many regions have also seen acute water scarcity, throwing everyday life out of gear. Many plant and animal species have already seen dwindling of their range of species. Mass mortality of coral reefs is another major fallout. There is a danger that they may entirely disappear after getting heavily bleached. Flooding of coastal areas, rendering millions of people vulnerable is already causing suffering around the world. Crop yields are dropping significantly, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia, Central and South America, stunting future generations with starvation and malnourishment.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is expected to reduce increase in ocean temperature as well as associated increase in ocean acidity and decrease on ocean oxygen levels. Thus risk to marine biodiversity can be minimised. It will have a positive impact on human health, livelihood opportunities, food security, water supply and thus overall economic growth. Estimates of the global emission outcomes of currently stated 2 degrees as submitted under the Paris Agreement would lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions. Avoiding overshoot and reliance on future large scale carbon dioxide removal (CDR) can only be achieved if the global emissions start declining well before 2030. Thus sustainable development, eradication of poverty and reducing inequalities would be better addressed if global warming were to be limited to 1.5 degrees.

For strengthening the capacities for climate action, the governments, civil society, private sector and local communities will all have to come together. Major lifestyle changes and policy changes are required to get synergies for sustainable development goals. There will always be trade-offs but the transition will have to be managed both with acceleration of technological innovation and collective behaviour changes. I firmly believe that our schools can also make a change by becoming aware of the grave climatic situation we are faced with.

Seema Malik

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