The World Economic Forum's Global Risk Report 2022 points out that over 3 in 10 people are worried that 'Extreme weather' will be a global threat in 0-2 years, and over 4 in 10 people believe 'Climate action failure' will be a critical threat in 5-10 years.
We are causing excessive damage to the environment. A recent assessment found that only a quarter of the land on Earth is substantively free of the impacts of human activities. Some more figures stand testimony to that:
From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded
We are losing 7.3 million hectares of forest every year
Around 5.2 trillion plastic particles are floating in the oceans around the world
About 21.5 million people have been forced to relocate because of ill-effects of climate change in the past 12 years
Nearly 7 million people die because of poor air quality every year
In West Asia, nearly 90% of solid waste is disposed of as landfills
In the Germanwatch 2020 Global Climate Risk Index report, India is ranked fifth amongst the most affected countries by climate change. The Council On Energy, Environment And Water conducted district-level climate vulnerability assessment to present a climate vulnerability index (CVI) of states and UTs by mapping exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. Key findings are as follows:
Over 80% of India's population lives in districts highly vulnerable to extreme hydro-met disasters
Southern India is the most vulnerable to extreme climate events, followed by eastern, western, northern, north-eastern and central zones. While India's northeast is more vulnerable to floods, the southern and central parts are more vulnerable to extreme droughts.
59% of the total districts in the eastern and 41% in western zones of India are highly vulnerable to extreme cyclone events
Climate change deniers need to just visit a greenhouse at any nearby farm. The greenhouse effect causes increase in temperature due to trapped solar radiations. The most potent greenhouse gases include Carbon Dioxide and Methane. The carbon footprint, or the amount of carbon generated by a single individual’s activities is at a level not seen at any point in the past. Some other gases like CFCs deplete the Ozone layer, slowly allowing more UV radiation in, leading to ice cap melting and chronic skin problems.
Experts point out that the current decarbonization commitments made at COP26 still aren’t enough to slow warming to the 1.5°C goal set in the Paris Climate Agreement. So, how did we come to this:
Carbon-intensive activities like energy production, transportation
Removing CO2-absorbing plant-cover for agriculture, urban sprawl
Deforestation also disrupts oxygen, nitrogen, water, carbon and biogeochemicals cycles and balance in ecosystems
Growing use of refrigerants in air-conditioning, aerosol sprays, etc.
Growing use of non-recyclable materials such as plastics literally chokes life systems
Increased air pollution, atmospheric aerosols, have decreased sunshine duration and evapotranspiration
Human-induced microclimate changes - unsustainable landscapes (for golf, etc.), poor infrastructures (heat islands without runoff, etc.)
~ Mahatma Gandhi
This fundamental divide - skewed consumption patterns disregarding needs of future generations - are severely compromising the planet’s carrying capacity to sustain present lifestyles. Its no wonder, that future generations are standing up and setting the future course in this area.
By 2050, the world must remove 10 Gtn of CO2—more than the current annual emissions of the US—to keep global temperature rise to well below 2°C.
We cannot afford to be workhorses toiling through their whole lives in a pursuit of 'material' happiness and a delusion of peace, at war with our own mother nature!
We have to develop the mindset to think about critical issues and make time to think about what’s happening in our surrounding.
Most AGCMS predict general warming and enhanced rainfall over India, with these changes becoming particularly significant by 2040.
By the year 2100, the temperature increase could be on the order of 2-40 C, with a maximum increase in the northern region of 40 C.
Most global models suggest that the Indian monsoons will intensify with a warming climate. Since the continental-scale land-sea thermal contrast is expected to become larger in summer and smaller in winter, one would expect that in the future the summer monsoon will be stronger and the winter monsoon will be weaker than they are presently.
A significant fraction of sea level rise is due to thermal expansion of a warmed ocean (as much as 0.3 to 0.8 m over the past century, according to the 2007 IPCC report).
Climate models predict an earlier snowmelt, which could have a significant effect on agricultural production, especially if the levels of moisture in the soils are reduced during the growing season.
Climate inaction—essentially business as usual—could lead to a global GDP loss between 4% and 18%, with varying impacts across different regions.
One of the greatest global challenges is to integrate environmental sustainability with economic growth and welfare by decoupling environmental degradation from economic growth and doing more with less. Resource decoupling and impact decoupling are needed to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns and to make the transition towards a greener and more socially inclusive global economy.
Efforts to curb climate change and solve long-term issues will likely have negative short-term impacts on the global economy and society. So risk mitigation efforts need to be in place as we work to reach net-zero and ultimately slow down climate change. At the junction of private pursuits and government administration, few challenges of ground level development sector activities are as follows:
Municipal and judiciary hurdles slowed down lake restoration projects. 1
Lockdown restrictions & CSR support withdrawal halted percolation wells & forest enhancement projects. 1
Inadequate electricity & internet in remote areas impacted outreach (meetings, events & interactions) to farmers for chemical free, climate resilient agriculture practices in semi-arid & dry regions. 2
Untrusting and risk averse nature of exploited & marginalized small farmers and long gestation period of natural farming methods and renewable energy sources slows transition to sustainable livelihoods. 3
When policy at large favors support and subsidies for chemicals-based agriculture, change slows down further 4
In heavily deforested, flood cyclone prone & seawater inundated coastal belts, insecure livelihoods of farmers & fishermen (vulnerable to frequent illness) are being addressed by ecological restoration and crisis planning 5
At the edge of man-animal conflict, conservationists 6, 7 and animal rehab specialists 8 uphold respect for all life through conscious fencing, road ecology, zoonotic diseases coping, animal care and other innovations
It is possible to cut 30 Gt greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2030. UNEP has identified six sectors with the potential to reduce emissions enough to keep the world below the 1.5°C mark.
If deforestation stops
Food production sector
Humans show a remarkable, almost awe-inspiring ability to make use of available resources to achieve something much greater. Reversing climate change is a daunting task by all means but, if we manage to improve lifestyles of peoples across all walks of life and work our way to a time where everyone lives a fulfilling life, a life that they are happy with. Then the walk to resolving the issue of climate and the environment will be much easier.
There is a lot that can be done. UNEP has identified six sectors with the potential to reduce emissions enough to keep the world below the 1.5°C mark. It is possible to cut 30 Gt greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2030. The energy sector can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 Gt annually. Transport is responsible for about one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and if unchecked the sector’s emissions are set to double by 2050. Industry could reduce its emissions by 7.3 Gt yearly by embracing passive or renewable-energy-based heating and cooling systems, improving energy efficiency and addressing other pressing issues, such as excessive methane leaks. By 2030 buildings will account for an estimated 12.6 Gt of energy-related emissions. The good news is that some 70 per cent of the urban infrastructure that will be needed to accommodate a fast-growing world is yet to be built. In total, food production solutions can cut emissions by 6.7 Gt a year. Reducing food loss and waste while shifting towards more sustainable diets could reduce emissions by more than 2 Gt a year. Connected to our food systems, the world can reduce emissions by 5.3 Gt annually if it halts deforestation and restores degraded woodlands.
Many non-profits collectively work to protect environment & foster sustainability, ranging from protecting existing ecosystems, allowing species in risk of going extinct to recover, improving quality of life for those vulnerable to extreme weather and giving them opportunities to stand on equal footing with the rest.
In describing its capabilities WWF states that “50 years of field experience has taught us that conservation is as much or more about humans as it is about other species. If we want people to work for conservation, we must first make conservation work for them.” Non-profits such as WWF are active in many objectives with many competencies (italicized):
Restriction: Carbon Dioxide Removal, Super Pollutant program, WRI’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol
GIS led Natural Resource and Environmental Mapping, Biodiversity mapping, Taxonomic surveys, Flora & fauna surveys, Science and policy interventions, Smart, creative partnerships,
Protection: Earthjustice, WRI’s Forest Legality Initiative, International Land Conservation Network, Forests and Land Use program, BioGems program to defend ecosystems, WWF Field Programs, Land and Water, Saving open spaces, caring for nature
GIS to identify and prioritize conservation, Conservation action planning, Finance, legal, and transaction expertise, Conservation easements, Safeguard property from development,
Restoration: WRI’s Global Restoration Initiative, Wake the Lake, Biodiversity enhancement project,
Desilting work, Lake rejuvenation, Grove restoration, Watershed management, Percolation wells creation, Soil and moisture quality improvement,
Sensitization: Outdoor environmental science programs for students, WWF Public Education, Parks for People, WildLink, Teen Environmental Education Mentorship, Coastal Camp, Alcoa Scholars in Yosemite National Park, Armstrong Scholars Program, Connecting people to outdoors
Environment awareness and education, Thematic lectures, Field study trips, Public relations programs, Communication materials design and distribution,
Citizen transition: Working Lands, Climate Resilient Agriculture involving 2000+ farmers in Dry Region of AP, Bees for Poverty Reduction, Biodiversity conservation and rural livelihood improvement in the corridor of Satpura and Pench Nati
Agro-forestry, Market linking of produce, Farmer value-chain share enhancement, Farmers Field Schooling,
Industry transition: WWF Market Transformation, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, Secretariat for the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP), CSI-Thermal Program (Solar Water Heating), Rooftop Solar Challenge, WRI's Science Based Targets
Sustainable Development Models: Sustainable Village Development Project, Sustainable Integrated Rural Development, Sustainable agriculture based on indigenous systems, Holistic Rural Development Program (HRDP), Natural Resource Management based Sustainable Living
In your community, probe your local politicians on their proposals. Do they include aggressive targets in:
Energy & industry: Decarbonization, net-zero carbon, halting fossil fuel industry subsidies, industry’s energy efficiency, price on carbon and greenhouse gas emission mandates, and incentivizing renewable energy
Mobility: Emission limits for cars, taxis, buses, trucks and trains, upgrading public transportation & non-motorized mobility (protected bicycle tracks, etc.), and switching to electric fleets
Food: Promotion of natural & climate-smart agriculture, penalize waste in food supply chain, and scientific promotion of plant-rich diet
Buildings: Proposals for carbon-neutral building standards,
Think before you print. Bring your own water bottle to work, and cup and mug to the coffee station.
Reduce, reuse, repair and recycle what you consume
Get your own reusable domestic bag (cloth/ jute/ thick paper/ etc.) to avoid a plastic bag wherever possible.
Choose rail over air and travel as little as possible
Work from home, hold video meetings to commute less. If necessary, walk, cycle, use public or shared transport.
If using car/ bike, inflate tires properly to improve mileage. When you are in a traffic jam, turn off the engine.
At home, in Gardening:
If your lot gets plenty rain, its easy to harvest rainwater. Add tanks to rain gutters - cover the top with mosquito nets - and reuse it for your indoor plants, flowerpots, washing vehicles and cleaning outdoor areas.
Also make use of your organic waste and start compost.
Electrical fittings & appliances:
Choose energy efficient ones. Where option is available, select the energy-saving setting for dishwasher, refrigerator and other major appliance. Turn off those which you are not using. Unplug those on ‘standby’.
Washing & laundry:
Get low-flow showerheads and aerators for water faucets. Close the tap when you shampoo, rub soap or brush.
Run washing machine when it is well filled. If sunshine is ample – use laundry lines instead of using a dryer.
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players" ~ William Shakespeare
Our initiatives, expertise and abilities can catalyze the change required. The right role can channel our contributions, and add momentum to the efforts.