NEW DELHI :
Climate change remains a grave threat despite the reduction in emissions witnessed during the covid-19 lockdown and failure to step up climate action could harm humans, the ecosystem, and economies for centuries, scientists have warned
The reduction in emissions because of the lockdown is temporary and the ongoing crisis could exacerbate the socioeconomic impact on countries most vulnerable to climate change, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has said, even as the world marked Earth Day against the backdrop of the pandemic.
The world is already 1.1°C warmer than in the pre-industrial era. The past five years were the hottest on record and WMO’s multi-model climate prediction suggests a new global mean temperature record is likely to occur in 2020-2024.
“While covid-19 has caused a severe international health and economic crisis, failure to tackle climate change may threaten human well-being, ecosystems, and economies for centuries," said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas. “We need to flatten both the pandemic and climate change curves and show the same determination and unity against climate change as against covid-19," Taalas said.
There are concerns that a prolonged global economic slowdown may adversely impact the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which is expected to kick in from next year. There is also a risk that limited financial resources could be diverted away from climate targets.
As many as 198 countries have committed to keep the rise of the global temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels for this century, while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C.
“This is the time for all governments to rethink their approach to climate change. If one pandemic can bring the global economy to a halt, imagine what a perfect storm of extreme heat, water stress, agricultural losses, and destroyed infrastructure from extreme weather events, would do," said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).
Experts also highlighted the challenge of evacuation in case of extreme weather events and the risk of over-stretched health systems, besides the need to boost disaster warning systems.
“Both, the covid-19 crisis and climate change impacts, are here and now. If we miss addressing the climate crisis while dealing with covid, it will only mean ignoring the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable communities," said Vaibhav Chaturvedi, research fellow, CEEW.