Paris agreement has failed to put brakes on emission rise
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on December 3, 2019, raised questions about the on-ground success of the 2015 Paris Agreement by pointing out that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions had actually increased since the agreement was inked and that the world was now hotter than ever before.
The remarks by the organisation's Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, were made during the release of its State of Global Climate 2019 at the Conference of Parties 25 (CoP 25) in Madrid, Spain.
The figures given by WMO in the report show that major greenhouse gases have reached all-time record values. It attributed the increasing warming to these rising levels of greenhouse gases.
“Emissions have actually increased since the Paris Agreement,” said Taalas. Echoing the United Nations Emissions Gap Report published recently, he projected that the world was on course to a ‘3 to 5 degree rise’ unless emission cuts happened rapidly and adequately.
“It is almost certain that the ongoing decade of 2010-2019 is going to be the warmest on record,” said Taalas, adding that though there was still about a month to go before the decade came to an end, the prediction was unlikely to change.
He also said that the five-year period of 2015-2019 was going to be the warmest on record, with 2016 being the warmest year ever so far. According to NASA figures, the current decade has already recorded a 0.265 degrees Celsius (°C) rise over 2000-2009. The 2000-2009 decade was found to have a 0.2 °C rise over the previous decade.
“Major greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have reached record levels and the situation has worsened since the Paris Agreement has been signed. Carbon dioxide has crossed the threshold level of 400 ppm (parts per million) and is now on an all-time record high of 407.8 ppm. Methane has also reached a record proportion of 1,869 ppb (parts per billion) and so has nitrous oxide, with 331.1 ppb,” Taalas said.
Harjeet Singh, global head of climate change at non-profit ActionAid, alleged that the inaction of rich countries and the emission holiday that was provided according to the Paris Agreement package had pushed the world to a critical juncture.
Though the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, it gave a five-year emission holiday to all countries, asking them to cut emissions from 2020 onwards according to their commitments in the Agreement.
CK Mishra, environment secretary in the Union government, told this reporter that the failure of rich countries to implement their emission cut commitments pre-2020 had brought the world to this stage.
The report also highlighted that apart from temperature rise, all the tell-tale symptoms of incremental climate change were clearly visible including more acidification of sea water, sea level rise, heightened health impacts and hunger, more forest fires, tropical cyclones, marine heatwaves, sharp changes in precipitation patterns, increasing heatwaves and the melting of Arctic ice.
India at the receiving end
The report has mentioned Bulbul and Fani as two major cyclones among six global cyclones that have had maximum impact on people's lives and livelihoods during 2019.
While Fani devastated Odisha in April, Bulbul made landfall close to Sagar island in West Bengal on November 9 before entering Bangladesh after ravaging the Sundarbans. The other top cyclones in 2019, so far, were Idai in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, Typhoon Hagibis in Japan and Typhoon Lekima in China.
Incidentally, in response to a question posed by this reporter, Taalas agreed that the Sundarbans, spread between the Indian state of West Bengal and Bangladesh, with an estimated 8 millimetre rise per year as calculated in India, was one of the hotbeds of global sea level rise.
The report also mentioned the pre-monsoon heatwave in the Indian Subcontinent as one of the top global heatwave incidents of 2019.
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