Climate emergency: Tipping points are already here, scientists warn

Source: Down to earth

Synopsis:

The tipping points of a Climate Emergency are already visible on Earth. The countries should acknowledge them and take urgent action towards decarbonization of the global economy and restoration of nature.

Background:
  • In 2019, more than 11,000 scientist signatories talked about the need for declaring a climate emergency. They emphasized that conservation endeavors have to be scaled up immensely to avoid unprecedented suffering due to the climate crisis.
  • Now, as many as 18 of the 31 vital signs/variables that the researchers tracked have reached the new most dangerous levels, according to the paper published on July 28, 2021, in the journal Bioscience.

Factors pointing towards the onset of Climate Emergency:

  1. Ruminant world livestock numbers soared past 4 billion for the first time and exceeded the mass of all humans and wild animals combined. This rise in numbers means a rise in deforestation as forests are cut to make way for agricultural land and livestock ranches.
  2. Annual forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon reached a 12-year-high, with 1.11 million hectares destroyed between 2019 and 2020. Forest degradation due to fires, drought, logging, and fragmentation has transformed the region to act as a carbon source rather than a carbon sink.
  3. The global emissions-weighted average price per tonne of carbon dioxide has remained too low ($15.49 as of 2020). This will need to increase several times to be highly effective in curbing fossil fuel use, according to the new study.
  4. An alarming rise in extreme weather events is being witnessed every year, the authors noted. 
    • The year 2019 was categorized by the World Meteorological Organization as the conclusion of a decade of exceptional global heat and high-impact weather.
    • From tropical cyclones to floods, heavy rainfall, and droughts — 2020 saw it all. The most dramatic was the record-breaking Atlantic Hurricane Season that concluded on November 30.
    • In India, the annual mean land surface air temperature was above normal in 2020, This made 2020 the eighth-warmest year on record since 1901.
  5. Fossil fuel energy usage has decreased since 2019, along with carbon dioxide emissions, likely because of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. However, the projected estimates in 2021 show all of these variables rising again.
    • Even though solar and wind power consumption increased by 57 percent between 2018 and 2021, this is 19 times lower than fossil fuel consumption, the report showed.
What should be done?
  • Countries should acknowledge the evidence of approaching a Climate Emergency.
  • A greater focus should be placed on six areas:
    • Fossil fuel elimination and shift to renewables
    • Slashing black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons
    • Restoring biodiversity
    • Switching to plant-based diets, reducing food waste, and improving cropping practices
    • Switching to ecological economics and a circular economy
    • Lowering fertility rates
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