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1.5 Degree Celsius Target

Context: According to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports, the annual mean global surface temperature will exceed 1.5 degrees by 2027.

1.5 Degree Celsius Target Background

  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released two reports titled “Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update 2023-2027” and “State of Global Climate 2022.”
  • As per WMO, the annual mean global surface temperature between 2023 and 2027 will be 1.1-1.8 degree Celsius higher than the baseline temperature of 1850-1900 or pre-industrial levels.
  •  In 2022, annual mean global surface temperature was 1.15 degrees above the baseline and by 2027, it will exceed 1.5 degrees, a critical point beyond which there may be no return.

What is the 1.5 degree Celsius Target?

  • The 2015 Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, commits countries to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for 1.5°C.
    • This was endorsed as a global target by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 and since then has been pursued in all climate dialogues.
What is the 1.5 degree Celsius
What is the 1.5 degree Celsius

Why is 1.5 degree Celsius Target Important?

  • Global Heating: Earth has already warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial age while humans have been responsible for virtually all global heating over the last 200 years.
  • Precipitation Anomalies: El Niño is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
    • The El Niño will strengthen in 2023, resulting in a 98% possibility of witnessing temperatures higher than 2016.
    • There is also increase in marine heat waves as compared to marine cold spells.
  • Loss of Glaciers: The cryosphere (frozen water part of the Earth system) is shrinking and there is a mass loss of glaciers in High-mountain Asia, Western North America, and South America.
    • The Arctic Ocean, the Greenlandic ice sheet is melting at a faster pace, contributing to the increase in sea level.
    • Also, warming greater than the global average is being experienced in the Arctic.
  • Impact on Agriculture: Climate change has affected crop yield negatively and the risks posed by agricultural pests and diseases have increased in the past few years.
    • The heatwaves in Pakistan and India in 2022 also resulted in a decline in crop yields.
  • Food Insecurity: The Horn of Africa has been witnessing extreme drought conditions since 2020, while at the same time, western African countries are seeing floods and heavy rainfall which has caused acute food insecurity.
  • Malnutrition: Countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan are facing acute food shortages resulting in malnutrition and hunger, demanding urgent humanitarian assistance.
  • Displacement:  The shortage of food has also led to mass displacement within and across borders.
    • In Syria and Yemen, thousands have been displaced owing to the floods, storms, and heavy snowfall.
    • The floods in Pakistan affected croplands in southern and central parts of the country and displaced eight million people within the country.
  • Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems:  Due to climate change, population of migratory species has declined in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    • The warming above 1.5 degree Celsius can prove lethal for coral reefs which are already prone to bleaching.
  • Global Deaths: According to the WMO, extreme weather anomalies have caused the deaths of two million people and incurred $4.3 trillion in economic damages over the past fifty years.
  • Vulnerable Communities: Vulnerable communities who have historically contributed the least to climate change are being disproportionately affected by the climate change.
  • Greater social disparities: As a result of land loss due to sea-level rise, there could be an increase in social disparities.
    • Those who are better off will be able to cope better than marginalized groups, leading to social inequalities among people living in coastal areas.

What are Major Bottlenecks in 1.5 degree Celsius Target?

  • Lack of Commitment: The Climate Performance Index has shown that major economies contributing to greenhouse gas emissions like Australia, the U.S., Japan, Russia and Canada have made little progress in meeting their pledges.
    • Additionally, polluters like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia rank low in climate performance.
  • Impact of Pandemic: The pandemic pushed the world into a socio-economic crisis. The countries are taking measures to build-back the economies with almost no consideration for building-back in a sustainable manner.
  • Global Events: The Ukraine conflict has further added to woes and sparked an energy crisis threatening climate goals.
  • Policy Enactment and Enforcement: Despite extensive data on climate change, policies and laws are not keeping up with the rapidly changing conditions.
  • Limited Resources: Limited resources, lack of private sector and citizen engagement, low climate literacy, lack of political commitment and low sense of urgency have also contributed to rise in global temperature.

Global Initiatives for Climate Change

  • Global Methane Pledge: The Global Methane Pledge was launched at COP26 in November 2021 to catalyse action to reduce methane emissions. The countries commit to work together in order to collectively reduce methane emissions by at least 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.
  • Kyoto Protocol: The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the UNFCCC, which commits its parties by setting internationally binding greenhouse gases (GHG) emission reduction targets.
  • Clean Development Mechanism: Under this, emission-reduction projects in developing countries can earn certified emission reduction credits.
    • These saleable credits can be used by industrialized countries to meet a part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Net Zero Coalition by United Nations: To keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C, emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
    • More than 70 countries have set a net-zero targets, covering about 76% of global emissions.

Climate Change and India

  • India is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) after China and the US and is increasingly facing the brunt of climate change.
  • Heatwaves: February 2023 was recorded as the hottest month since in 1901.
  • Extreme Weather: In 2022, India witnessed extreme weather events for 80% of the days.
    • Indian monsoons were wetter than usual after recording extreme heat during the pre-monsoon period.
  • Policies: With high performance, India ranked 8thin Climate Change Performance Index 2023. India is aiming to balance its development needs with ongoing climate action both at the domestic and international levels.
    • With domestic measures like the Green Hydrogen Mission and the introduction of green bonds, India is performing fairly well despite contributing only a miniscule to cumulative GHG emissions.
    • At the international level, through the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, India can prove to be a responsible climate player.
    • India has set a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2070.
    • India has also pledged that it will increase its non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 gigawatts (GW) by 2030. It currently has a capacity of around 157GW.

Way Forward

  • GHG reductions: Globally, annual carbon dioxide emissions need to be reduced by 48% by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050.
    • Methane emissions need to be reduced by a third by 2030 worldwide.
  • Reduce global warming: Limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector that involves a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen).
  • Climate resilience: Requirement of climate-resilient development to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that provide wider benefits.
  • Climate investment: Governments should increase finance to climate investment. Expansion of the clean energy infrastructure.
  • Agriculture: Reduction in nitrogen pollution from agriculture.
  • Reduce food wastage: Curtailing food waste and adopting measures to make it easier for people to lead low-carbon lifestyles.
  • Role of developed countries: The developed countries which have been responsible for major greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions should assume more responsibility and implement climate action.
  • Awareness creation: Raising awareness about the impacts of climate change and educating the public about sustainable living practices can also play a significant role in mitigating climate change.
  • Climate research: There’s a need to continually invest in climate science research to better understand the impacts of climate change and develop innovative solutions.

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