Climate change and the rising global average temperature have become a common enemy in today’s ever-dividing world. Unfortunately, the global average temperature is on rising. The world is about to hit the limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement, but the net emissions are nowhere near zero. But, what catastrophe could possibly unravel by just a few degrees hotter planet? And, why is COP26 being called a “make-or-break” climate summit?
The Last Hope: COP 26
COP, the Conference of the Parties is an annual meeting of almost all the countries under the UN climate treaty. This year, the COP26 is taking place in the Scottish city of Glasgow, where world leaders, private companies, NGOs, and activists would come together to discuss climate change.
Though happening for about 30 years, the biggest breakthrough of the COP was the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, where approximately 200 countries pledged to cut down their net emissions to zero. The Paris Agreement aims to limit the net global temperature below the 2-degree threshold.
Fortunately, in the most optimistic scenario, where all the policies will be kept, by the end of the century, the earth will get two degrees hotter. But still, there are one-in-twenty chances that by 2,100, the globe might be three-degrees or hotter. But, what would a 3-degree hotter world look like?
A 3-degree Hotter Earth
At the current pace, the world seems to be marching towards its own doom. But how bad could a three-degree Celsius hotter earth be? Yes, it might not seem significant for our personal lense, but, three-degrees of global warming would push the already chaotic world off the verge of climate catastrophe. Drought, extreme heatwaves, immense precipitation, and forest fires taking place today will multiply multiple folds under thrice hotter earth.
Children born in the 21st century are seven times more likely to face extreme weather calamities than their grandparents. Already over 300 million people globally have been displaced due to climate change. The slum of many countries like Bangladesh is filling up with climate migrants, while thousands in Madagascar are starving to death.
But, a stark rise in 3-degree would not limit its disasters to the vulnerable. Even the wealthiest cities would not be immune to the dire consequences. While places like Berlin might bake in extreme heat, storms in New York will likely turn a few parts of the city desolate.
Here are a few facets that we might be forced to face in the most extreme conditions:
With just 1.5 degrees hotter earth by the end of the century, sea levels will increase by 48 cm, i.e., twice as much as the current levels. At 2 degrees, the scale will soar up to 56 cm, beyond which there are no clear predictions. Expert fear that further rise in the temperature could lead to stronger climate changes with exponentially accelerated melting of the glaciers and ice caps.
This would create massive flooding, with the potential risk of drowning some of the largest coastal cities. The rising sea level has already forced millions of coastal residents to relocate to safer areas. At three-degree warmer temperatures, the catastrophe would be worse than a nightmare.
We are on the track to break the record for the hottest decade in recorded history. Hot waves and higher temperatures, in general, pose a serious threat to public health that primarily affects the world’s poorest communities.
The average number of extreme heat days per year would increase by up to 19, with warm spells lasting roughly 17 days longer when the Earth warms by 1.5 degrees. An increment of 2 degrees would result in 29 additional days of extreme heat and 35 additional days of warm temperatures. By 1.5 degrees, one severe heatwave would hit 14 percent of the global population every five years. If the planet warms by two degrees, that rate increases to 37%.
Boiling Ocean Water
As the atmosphere is warmed by greenhouse gases, the ocean absorbs the majority of the excess heat, and marine wildlife is being cooked alive. Particularly in the ocean, heatwaves threaten coral reefs and the plants and animals they support. Coastal communities depend on fisheries, which are threatened by rising ocean temperatures.
At 1.5 degrees of warming, world marine heatwaves will increase by 16 times, at 2 degrees of warming, by 23 times, and at 3.5 degrees of warming, by 41 times. Marine life would be devastated in all of the above scenarios, but every marine heatwave that is averted protects aquatic plants and animals.
Extinction of Wildlife
As temperatures rise and habitats get destroyed by humans, many species of animals and plants are disappearing. They will face dire circumstances as it gets hotter over the next century.
Adding two degrees of temperature increase would result in a double or triple loss of habitat for all species. Over 4.5 degrees, much of the planet will no longer be able to support wildlife.
The Risk to Public Health
Through heat waves, water-borne illnesses, air pollution, and many other ways, climate change will cause far more deaths than the COVID-19 pandemic did. The problem of mosquitoes will also worsen. Warmer weather will expand mosquito ranges, thereby causing more people to develop malaria.
In arid conditions, mosquito ranges will increase by 20%, while humid conditions will increase by 6%. With just half a degree more, their ranges would expand by 30% and 10%, respectively.
COP 26: The Closing Window
As we are approaching the threshold of years of climate catastrophe, the window to reverse climate change and global warming are shrinking. The COP26 can prove to be a turning point to bring down the demon of climate change under control.
If all the 200 countries agree to cut down the emission to net-zero, a hope for a silver lining might appear on the horizon. But, unless more drastic measures at national and international levels are taken place, this is what the earth will look like, if not worse in the near future.