New Delhi: At status quo, global warming is likely to increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040 or earlier and to 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, according to the latest report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The report, published Thursday, adds that this implies the world is not on course to fulfil the Paris Agreement target of limiting warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to a safe cap of 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible.
Titled ‘Making Peace With Nature’, the UNEP report comes on the heels of the US’ re-entry into the Paris Agreement, which takes effect Friday.
“Humanity is waging war on nature. This is senseless and suicidal,” warned UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the launch of the 168-page report.
In the past few weeks, several natural catastrophes across the world have been attributed to climate change. For instance, on 7 February, flash floods through the state of Uttarakhand killed nearly 60 people, and an ongoing winter storm in the US state Texas has left millions without electricity and water.
The report combines major UN assessments with latest research to provide a scientific blueprint on how to repair the planet.
It offers a series of “frightening statistics”, as report co-author Rachel Warren of the University of East Anglia calls it, on the severity of climate change.
For example, approximately one million of Earth’s eight million species of plants and animals face the threat of extinction, marine plastics pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, roughly nine million people die from pollution every year, about 400 million tonnes of industrial waste is dumped into the world’s waters every year and only 15 per cent of Earth’s wetlands remain intact.
Furthermore, roughly two-thirds of global warming caused by greenhouse gases is due to carbon dioxide, which mostly emits from the use of fossil fuels and some industrial processes.
Meanwhile, a quarter of the warming is the outcome of agriculture, pastoralism, forestry and changing natural land covers to human-dominated ones.
The report points out: “Countries with high average temperatures, low levels of development and high dependence on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, are expected to bear the largest burdens of climate change.”
GDP, other metrics exclude climate cost
The report also criticises the basis of conventional metrics like Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which “overstate progress because they fail to adequately capture the costs of environmental degradation”.
The report suggests using a Genuine Progress Indicator that can correct GDP for social and environmental factors such as inequality, costs of underemployment and costs of pollution.
Most of the essential benefits of nature currently have no financial or market value, therefore, investment is skewed towards unsustainable environmental activities, it adds.
The UNEP report suggests that inclusive wealth, which comprises the value of natural, human, manufactured and social capital, is a better measure of sustainable progress.