Act now or face extinction soon - Hindustan Times
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Act now or face extinction soon

ByHT Editorial
Mar 21, 2024 09:20 PM IST

The State of the Climate report details the defining challenge that humanity faces. Nations need to take action

Much has been written about the year 2023 and all the temperature records it broke. The latest State of the Climate report by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) confirmed that the year was the warmest on record, with the global average near-surface temperature at 1.45 °C above the pre-industrial baseline, and that it was the warmest 10-year period on record. Every day of the year, nearly one-third of the global ocean was gripped by a marine heatwave; by the end of 2023, over 90% of the ocean had experienced heatwave conditions; extreme ice melt in western North America and Europe drove the global set of reference glaciers to the largest loss of ice; and Antarctic sea ice extent was by far the lowest. The report, however, has made it clear that the crisis is much more than about high temperatures.

The crisis has become “The defining challenge that humanity faces”, WMO secretary-general Celeste Saulo said (Representative file image) PREMIUM
The crisis has become “The defining challenge that humanity faces”, WMO secretary-general Celeste Saulo said (Representative file image)

The crisis has become “The defining challenge that humanity faces”, WMO secretary-general Celeste Saulo said, as witnessed by the growing food insecurity, population displacement, and biodiversity loss it has brought about. The number of food-insecure people has more than doubled from 149 million before the pandemic to 333 million in 2023. Weather hazards continued to trigger displacement, and raise the costs of food production with farmlands destroyed. While some of these parameters, updated after the pandemic and with two wars raging on, may not be the direct result of climate extremes, the sudden spikes have been triggered by these extremes. Temperatures will continue to rise for many years to come, WMO warned, with concentrations of three main greenhouse gases showing a continued rise after reaching record levels in 2022. The report also highlighted the unusual warming in areas such as the Northeast Atlantic, which did not correspond to typical patterns of warming associated with El Niño, and has puzzled scientists. But there is a glimmer of hope: Renewable energy capacity additions increased by almost 50% from 2022 driven by solar radiation, wind and water cycle.

The report is just a confirmation — a document for history books — of what humanity faced all of last year. It needs to be seen as a “Red Alert” for a society facing a threat to its existence as changes to the fundamental Earth systems speed up. It is also a now constant reminder of the urgent need to cut emissions drastically. UN secretary general António Guterres rightly said the records are “chart-busting” — the Y-axes for several scales were extended this year to accommodate the higher values set last year. Whether this rhetoric spurs action is to be seen.

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