Breaching the 1.5 degree Celsius mark
There is a 40% chance of the annual average global temperature reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels temporarily over at least one of the next five years, the World Meteorolo-gical Organization (WMO) warned last week. There is a 90% likelihood of at least one year between 2021 and 2025 becoming the warmest on record, which would beat 2016 for being the warmest, it added. The goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement is to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C.
Releasing the report, WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas, said that data in the report must not be seen as just statistics. This is indeed true; it must prompt stronger climate action. In India, the direct effects of rising temperatures will manifest not just in more intense and frequent heat waves, but also in a more pervasive, long-term impact, which will go beyond ecological destruction.
A 2018 World Bank study shows that shifting average temperatures and rainfall patterns will depress living standards. There is an optimal temperature beyond which any increases in temperature lead to a fall in household consumption expenditure. This is because abnormal heat increases the chances of heat-related illnesses, fuels the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and chikungunya, increasing the health expenses of households. This could further dent the battle against poverty and inequality. The WMO report and available scientific literature must push India to double up its climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.