“Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening
here, it is happening now” — Barack Obama
The year 2019 saw the Amazon Rainforest ravaged by many uncontrollable fires — about 80,000 in the month of August, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. The report led to widespread outcry over the devastation that man has caused to the ‘Lungs of our Planet’, burning away swathes of land for beef and soya cultivation. The rate of Amazon deforestation was found to be the highest in the decade, which is a matter of grave concern, as the forest, sprawling over eight million square hectares, not only hosts rich biodiversity, but acts as the biggest sink for carbon emissions. This was only one in a series of disastrous forest fires, followed by the Australian bushfires (June 2019-early 2020) and the California wildfires in 2020.
The skies turned red and smoke-filled; a sort of apocalyptic premonition that left the people of the United States and the world to wonder whether our planet truly was on the brink of doom. We only had ourselves to blame. The fires were a result of gross mismanagement over decades and a general disregard towards the natural wealth that we have been endowed with. We saw the situation spiral out of control and cause a great loss of life and property. More than 4% of California’s land was burned, causing damage worth $12.079 billion. Climate change had a major role to play in this — rising temperatures and hot, dry weather conditions due to global warming promoted the spread of the fires.
In February 2021, a portion of the Nanda Devi Glacier broke off leading to disastrous floods in the state of Uttarakhand, India. The flash floods claimed 72 lives and many were declared missing. On investigating, it was found that the cause was heavy snowfall, followed by sudden warm climate in the days leading to the disaster. Uttarakhand has seen one of the highest temperatures and highest rainfall ever recorded in the region, in the past few years. Such climate fluctuations are becoming increasingly common in recent times. Due to continual increase in temperature in 2021, about 8 billion tonnes of the Greenland ice sheet are melting every day. In August, the Summit station witnessed rainfall for 13 hours, which is an extremely rare occurrence at such a high altitude.
The worst pest outbreak in 70 years was recorded in 2019 through 2021. It affected Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and India. Swarms of locusts plagued North India, for the first time since 1926–31. As they descended upon crops, they destroyed 70–80 percent of the crops. Making matters worse, many of the countries slammed with the worst infestations are already hobbling from protracted crises — recovering from recessions, fighting natural disasters, racked by conflict and now the coronavirus outbreak. The irregular oscillations in sea temperature over the Indian Ocean have increased due to climate change, leading to intense cyclonic activity. This cyclonic environment is conducive for locust breeding. Super cyclone Amphan was one of the strongest storms to hit the coast of West Bengal, wreaking havoc over the residents of coastal areas.
There is a common perception that the global lockdown has caused nature to ‘heal’, but the wounds that we have inflicted upon the earth over centuries will not heal in what is less than a blink of an eye in the ecological timeline. 2020 was the hottest year ever, according to the Global Climate Report, witnessing temperatures rocket to 50°C in countries like Canada. Many cases of drought and extreme precipitation occurred in our country and in different parts of the world. A global pandemic that is claiming people’s lives certainly shouldn’t be seen as a way of bringing about positive environmental change. For one thing, it is far from certain how long lasting the dip in carbon emissions that it has led to, will be. When the pandemic eventually subsides, there is going to be a rocketing rebound that cancels out any short-term cut in emissions. The financial crash of 2008–09 led to an overall dip in emissions by 1.3%, but this quickly rebounded by 2010 as the economy recovered, leading to an all-time high. It is important to not neglect climate change issues in the face of the pandemic. Efforts should not be reduced, despite some visible improvements.
The Climate Clock is one of the world’s most dynamic climate campaigns, combining art, science, technology, and grassroots organising to persuade the world to act in time. The project revolves around a simple tool: a clock that counts down the critical time window for reaching zero emissions (our “Deadline”), while tracking our progress on key solution pathways (our lifeline). Given the amount of carbon that we continue to emit globally, the Climate Clock deadline shows how long we have until this carbon budget runs out.The clock will continue to tick until it reaches zero, at which point our carbon budget will be depleted and the likelihood of catastrophic global climate impacts will be extremely high. We must act as soon as possible to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to zero, within this critical time window for action. The youth are leading initiatives to combat climate change — child activists like Greta Thunberg and Licipriya Kangujam are forcing stakeholders to take responsibility for their actions.
To fight this pre-apocalyptic situation that we as a species have created on our home planet, we will have to race ahead of time, ahead of the destruction that we have caused. Now is the time for us to join hands and make concentrated remedial efforts. We have to look beyond “ I “ and focus on “we” ; only then can we save ourselves from the grave consequences of global climate devastation.
Written by Aarushi Sultania, Rohan Srivastava, Yoshita Singh