This year, we saw several climate disasters from all over the world, with flash floods dominating countries like India, the USA, Spain, the UAE, Kenya, and droughts gripping Canada, South America, and Australia. The year 2023 was also declared the hottest year ever recorded.
Not surprising that a recent report has highlighted the impact of the changing climate on the planet. According to the report published by the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, if global average temperatures settle at 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial baseline, the planet could be committed to more than 40 feet of sea-level rise — a melt that would take centuries and reshape societies across the globe.
World leaders have all agreed to work together to contain the global temperature rise and keep it at 1.5°C in the Paris Agreement. However, with the recent rise in global temperatures, scientists anticipate devastating outcomes if the rise in global temperature crosses the threshold of 1.5°C and manages to increase by 2°C or more.
According to the report, a 2°C rise will result in extensive, potentially rapid, irreversible sea-level rise from Earth’s ice sheets; a 3°C rise will further speed up this loss within the next few centuries.
Also: What is 1.5°C: Read more
In 2015, global leaders from various countries came together to sign the Paris Agreement, a treaty to keep the global temperature at 1.5°C. However, scientists now say that keeping the global temperature contained at 1.5°C is not ideal, but this is the only option we have in fighting global warming.
“If 2°C warming is reached, projections show that nearly all tropical glaciers (North Andes, Africa) and most mid-latitude glaciers outside the Himalayas and polar regions will disappear, some as early as 2050. Others are large enough to delay complete loss until the next century but have already passed a point of no return. Even the Himalayas are projected to lose around 50% of today’s ice at 2°C,” said the report.
According to the report, due to the rise in melting of glaciers and ice sheets, scientists now believe that by 2°C, nearly all of Greenland, much of West Antarctica, and even vulnerable portions of East Antarctica will be triggered to very long-term, inexorable sea-level rise, even if air temperatures later decrease.
“This is due to a warmer ocean that will hold heat longer than the atmosphere, plus a number of self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms, so that it takes much longer for ice sheets to regrow (tens of thousands of years) than lose their ice,” adds the report.
This will have a direct impact on ecosystems and communities, especially those who are already living in low-lying nations and are vulnerable to a rise in sea level. The rise in sea level will lead to displacement of communities, rapid floods, and depletion of access to freshwater resources.
In a matter of a few days, world leaders will take part in the Conference of Parties or COP28 from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai. The discussions will involve carbon emission control and contingencies to reduce the release of carbon into the atmosphere.
As the report states, 2°C – and even 1.5°C – is too high to prevent extensive permafrost thaw and resulting CO2 and methane emissions that will cause temperatures to continue to rise, even once human emissions reach zero unless offset by extensive negative emissions/carbon drawdown. However, 1.5°C will decrease the size of such emissions significantly.
By continuing to emit CO2 and other greenhouse gases without pause, the world’s nations and industrial sectors have pushed the planet into a risk zone. Today’s 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels has already caused massive drops in Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, loss of glacier ice in all regions across the planet, the report adds.
This year in COP28, countries will be focusing on the need to shift from fossil fuel-dependent energy resources towards more sustainable ones, through harnessing the potential of renewable forms such as solar, wind, and thermal.
The clock is ticking, and world leaders need to come up with drastic measures to contain the global temperature and avoid the Earth’s temperature from reaching 2°C or more degrees.