If the coronavirus has diverted our resources and attention from global warming it doesn’t mean that everything is fine on climate front. Some important facts like Siberia seeing its warmest temperature on record this year and enormous chunks of ice caps in Greenland and Canada sliding into the sea have gone almost unnoticed so far as all our attention and efforts are focused on battling pandemic.
Though the world has agreed to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, but scientists say the world is on track to soar past that. A new study found that if the world warms another 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the West Antarctic ice sheet will reach a point of irreversible melting. It has enough water to raise global sea levels by 5 meters (16 feet).
Yes, COVID-19 led lockdown and social distancing norms have improved the air and water quality and reduced emissions but that should not lead us to any complacency as the situation on environment will turn worse as soon as we gain upper hand over COVID. Although greenhouse gas emissions are projected to drop about 6 per cent in 2020 due to travel bans and economic slowdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, this improvement is only temporary. Climate change is not on pause. Once the global economy begins to recover from the pandemic, emissions are expected to return to higher levels. Already pollution has crept back up as restrictions have started easing.
World now is a divided house and this kind of situation will not take us anywhere. We need to recreate the world of 2008 which faced unitedly to tackle the world financial crisis. We were able to face the financial crisis successfully because of our united action and similar step is needed to tackle the global warming.
The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, the world is currently way off track meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement had called for. Considerable efforts are needed to strengthen the ability of developing countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, through appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework.
We may escape from COVID-19 but not from global warming, because there is no vaccine for it. Remember, while COVID-19 is our immediate crisis, climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods. COVID should not become an excuse for our inaction on climate change nor should it give a reason for us to postpone the deadlines. As fires rage, sea-levels rise, and biodiversity is lost, there is even greater urgency in pursuing our climate goals and integrating them in our plans to build back better from the pandemic.
As countries move toward rebuilding their economies after COVID-19, recovery plans can shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, safe and more resilient. The current crisis is an opportunity for a profound, systemic shift to a more sustainable economy that works for both people and the planet.