If you thought 2020 was bad, wait till you hear this: global temperatures are now more likely than not to breach 1.5°C (2.7°F) of warming within the next five years, according to the latest report released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released on May 17, 2023. That’s the limit set by the Paris Agreement to avoid the worst effects of climate change. And no, this doesn’t mean we can celebrate crossing the finish line early. It means we are running out of time to prevent a climate catastrophe.
Why does 1.5°C matter so much?
Well, it’s the difference between life and death for millions of people and ecosystems around the world. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), every fraction of a degree matters. Going beyond 1.5°C would mean more heatwaves, droughts, floods, storms, sea level rise, crop failures, water scarcity, diseases, conflicts and displacement. And guess who would bear the brunt of these impacts? That’s right, countries like India that are already vulnerable to climate extremes and have low adaptive capacity.
So how did we get here?
The WMO says one of the factors that boosted the chance of hitting 1.5°C is an El Nino weather pattern expected to develop in the coming months. El Nino is a natural phenomenon that occurs when warm waters in the tropical Pacific heat up the atmosphere above, spiking global temperatures. But El Nino is not the only culprit. The main driver of global warming is human-induced greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture.
The WMO also warns that one of the next five years will be the hottest on record, surpassing 2016 which saw global temperature impacted by about 1.3°C (2.3°F) of warming. The hottest eight years ever recorded were all between 2015 and 2022. That’s not a coincidence, that’s a trend.
What does this mean for India?
Well, it’s not good news. India is already experiencing a warming climate, with more frequent and intense heat waves, erratic monsoons, droughts and floods. A recent study by Climate Central found that India could face annual coastal flooding affecting 36 million people by 2050 under a high-emissions scenario. Another study by IIT Gandhinagar projected that India could lose 10% of its GDP by 2100 due to climate change.
India is also highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture and groundwater resources, which are threatened by changing rainfall patterns and glacier melt in the Himalayas. According to the World Bank, India could face a 14-18% decline in crop yields by 2030 due to extreme heat.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. India has also taken some steps to address climate change and reduce its emissions. In its updated pledges to the UN, India has said it will reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030, generate 50% of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, and achieve net zero emissions by 2070.
These are commendable goals, but they are not enough to keep global warming below 1.5°C. India needs to peak its emissions as soon as possible and reduce them by at least 16% from their 2005 levels by 2030, according to Climate Action Tracker.
What can we do as individuals?
Well, we can’t just sit back and watch the world burn. We need to take action in our own lives and communities to reduce our carbon footprint and demand more from our leaders and businesses. Here are some simple ways we can make a difference:
- Switch to renewable energy sources like solar or wind for our homes and offices
- Use public transport whenever possible. Cycle or walk instead of driving or flying
- Eat less meat and dairy and more plant-based foods
- Avoid food waste and compost our organic waste
- Buy local and organic products and avoid single-use plastics
- Plant trees and support conservation efforts
- Educate ourselves and others about climate change and its solutions
- Join climate movements and campaigns and hold our politicians accountable
- Last but not least, support sustainable businesses like ours who are trying to change the status quo and bring sustainable alternatives
At The Switch Fix, we are committed to helping you make these changes in your daily routine with our eco-friendly personal care products. We believe that every small action counts and that together we can make a big difference.
Remember: winter is coming, but so is spring. And we have magic on our side.
- India: Climate Change Impacts – World Bank Group. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/06/19/india-climate-change-impacts.
- Climate change: What emission cuts has India promised? – BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-58922398.
- How climate change is impacting India’s agricultural landscape. https://www.businesstoday.in/opinion/columns/story/how-climate-change-is-impacting-indias-agricultural-landscape-311452-2021-11-06.
- What is the impact of climate change in india? – BYJU’S. https://byjus.com/ias-questions/what-is-the-impact-of-climate-change-in-india/.
- The Effects of Climate Change on India – GeeksforGeeks. https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/the-effects-of-climate-change-on-india/.
- Climate Action Tracker https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/india/targets/