Climate change and temperature extremes
The paper presents a data-backed analysis of the extreme Mean Annual Temperature (MAT) changes in the next half a century as a result of anthropogenic climate change. These severe changes will predominantly occur in the global south resulting in almost 3.5 billion people experiencing a mean temperature of around 29.0°C. The human experience temperature will be 2.3 times of this actual temperature due to faster warming of land than oceans. This range of temperature is currently only found in a few areas of the Sahara. The limited temperature range within which humans and food production have thrived for the last 6000 years is ∼11°C to 15°C. This human niche, as the authors call it, will be limited to only a narrow zone in the northern hemisphere by the end of this century unless we radically adapt. This will have serious implications for not just global migration but also national political and security issues. Immediate action at unprecedented scales needs to be mobilised to firstly, mitigate climate change and secondly, to create targeted policies for rapid climate adaptation in the affected areas.
Cost of climate inaction
One of the most compelling arguments for climate action has to do with the cost of climate inaction. Several studies have calculated the social cost of carbon (SCC) - economic impacts of per tonne of carbon released into the atmosphere. The global median costs per tonne of CO2 emissions is more than $400 according to one study (study 1), whereas cumulative costs stand at $16 trillion per year at 2017 CO2 levels. The study also estimates the geographical distribution of SCC. While India, Brazil and China top the list of countries most affected by climate change, the economic costs are substantial in other developing countries, too. Additional studies have warned that these amounts are likely to be an underestimation, as they exclude uncertain and unpredictable impacts (study 2, study 3). Further, SCC remains strictly an economic indicator and does not account for the social fallout of climate change impacts, such as migration and armed conflict.
Production Gap Report 2020
Despite an appeal by the UN Secretary-General calling for climate-compatible COVID-19 recovery packages, governments across the world have pursued fossil fuel-friendly actions that will jeopardise the climate target of 1.5°C. The Production Gap Report 2020 by leading climate research organisations finds that, while the world needs to reduce fossil fuel production at a rate of 6% per year between 2020 and 2030, current state plans and policies will result in an average annual increase of 2%. This increase will lead to emissions that double the amount consistent with 1.5°C or even 2°C. By November 2020, G20 countries had committed $233 billion to activities that support fossil fuel production and consumption, compared to $146 billion for clean energy technologies. As per the report, the United States, Canada, Turkey and India are among the countries that continue to finance fossil fuel production in their domestic economies.
2020 Report of The Lancet countdown on health and climate change
The annual The Lancet countdown report presents the findings and consensus of 35 leading academic institutions and UN agencies on the impacts of climate change on human health and well-being. The report provides key figures that underscore the urgency to address climate change as soon as possible. There has been a 53.7% increase in heat-related mortality in the last 20 years among people aged 65 and older. During 2018 in Europe, the cost of heat-related mortality was equivalent to 1.2% of regional gross national income. In India and Indonesia, heat-related potential labour capacity losses amounted to 4-6% of their annual gross domestic product. In 2018, the global surface area suffering from excess drought doubled in relation to the previous year. The authors also highlight that climate change has increased the probability of the spread of infectious diseases.
State of climate report: Global 2020 and Africa 2019
Two World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) reports, one on the State of climate in Africa (2019) and another on the State of global climate (2020) show that the past six years have been the warmest years on record. Sea level has risen at a higher rate than expected and 2019 saw the highest ocean heat content on record. Heavy rain and severe droughts had a considerable impact on agriculture and human livelihood. Additionally, severe weather events have triggered significant migration.
With agriculture being the backbone of the African economy, climate variability has caused an increase in hunger in the continent. The number of undernourished people increased by 45.6% since 2012 in drought-prone sub-Saharan Africa. The Africa report explores the opportunities to reduce the continent's vulnerability to climate change by powering the agricultural sector with renewable energy. Development of the agricultural sector using efficient and clean energy sources could reduce poverty two to four times faster than growth in any other sector.