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Global warming

Editorial CAITLYN SAMPLEY AGGIE


It is no secret now. Climate change and global warming are going to be the biggest threats to humanity in the near future as a key UN report has made some chilling observations that should make the entire humanity stop and think what are we turning this planet into. According to the latest much-anticipated UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying, and some trends are now irreversible, at least during the present time frame. Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Scientists are also observing changes across the whole of Earth’s climate system; in the atmosphere, in the oceans, ice floes, and on land. Many of these changes are unprecedented, and some of the shifts are in motion now, while some – such as continued sea level rise – are already ‘irreversible’ for centuries to millennia, ahead, the report warns. But there is still time to limit climate change, IPCC experts say. Strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases, could quickly make air quality better, and in 20 to 30 years global temperatures could stabilize. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the Working Group’s report was nothing less than “a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable”. He noted that the internationally-agreed threshold of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels of global heating was “perilously close. We are at imminent risk of hitting 1.5 degrees in the near term. The only way to prevent exceeding this threshold, is by urgently stepping up our efforts, and pursuing the most ambitious path. he report, prepared by 234 scientists from 66 countries, highlights that human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years. In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years, and concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide were higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years. Global surface temperature has increased faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over a least the last 2,000 years. For example, temperatures during the most recent decade (2011–2020) exceed those of the most recent multi-century warm period, around 6,500 years ago, the report indicates. Meanwhile, global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900, than over any preceding century in at least the last 3,000 years. The document shows that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming between 1850-1900, and finds that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of heating. As such, limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative carbon dioxide emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions.