Combating the menace of climate change

Muhammad Abdul Mazid | Published: October 05, 2018 21:19:11

Among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, SDG 13 has crucial implications for the human race as a whole. It stipulates that climate change is now affecting every country in every continent, disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities and countries dearly. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, weather events are becoming more extreme and greenhouse gas emissions are now at their highest levels. Without action, the world's average surface temperature is likely to surpass 3 degrees centigrade this century.

Affordable, scalable solutions are now available to enable countries to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies. The pace of change is quickening as more people are turning to renewable energy and a range of other measures that will reduce emissions and increase adaptation efforts. Climate change, however, is a global challenge transcending national borders. It is an issue that requires solutions that need to be coordinated at the international level to help developing countries move toward a low-carbon economy.

To strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the COP21 in Paris., which went into force in November of 2016. In the agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees centigrade. As of April 2018, 175 parties ratified the Paris Agreement, 168 parties communicated their first nationally determined contributions to the UN framework convention on Climate Change Secretariat and 10 developing countries submitted their proposals on national adaptation plans for responding to climate change. Developed country parties continue to make progress towards the goal of jointly mobilising $100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation actions.

From the study of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it is learnt   that from 1880 to 2012, average global temperature increased by 0.85°C. To put this into perspective, for each 1 degree of temperature increase, grain yields decline by about 5 per cent. Maize, wheat and other major crops have experienced significant yield reductions at the global level of 40 megatons per year between 1981 and 2002 due to a warmer climate. Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and sea level has risen. From 1901 to 2010, average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melting. The Arctic's sea ice has been shrinking in every successive decade since 1979, with 1.07 million km of ice loss every decade. Given the current concentration and on-going emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that by the end of this century, the increase in global temperature will exceed 1.5°c. The world's oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted to be 24-30cm by 2065 and 40-63cm by 2100. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions are stopped. Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990. Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. It is still possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behaviour, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold.

The Paris Agreement on climate change acknowledged the need to promote universal access to sustainable energy in developing countries, in particular in Africa, through enhanced deployment of renewable energy. It also provided an opportunity for countries to strengthen global response to the threat of climate change by keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016.The UN continues to encourage all stakeholders to take action toward reducing the impacts of climate change and strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries. The Agreement set 13 targets which include, among others:

— Integrating climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning;

— Improving education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning;

— Implementing the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilising jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalise the Green Climate Fund through its capitalisation as soon as possible;

— Promoting mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing states, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized.

Focusing on the links between agricultural trade, climate change and food security, ensuring food security for all is both a key function of, and a challenge for agriculture. According Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), climate change will have an increasingly adverse impact on many regions of the world, those in low latitudes will be hit the hardest.  It has been  emphasised that  agriculture must generate decent jobs to support billions of rural people globally, especially in developing countries. Turning to the warming planet, the FAO has underscored that agriculture is pivotal in helping to sustain the world's natural resources and biodiversity. Climate change impacts will affect different places in different ways, with variations across crops and regions. Arid and semi-arid regions will be exposed to even lower rainfall levels and higher temperatures, lowering crop yields. Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America will be disproportionately affected, many of which already suffer from poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Mazid is former Secretary to GoB and former Chairman, NBR.

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