‘Time running out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions’ - ‘Future of Earth, 2020’ report.

The ‘Future of Earth, 2020’ report enlists five key global risks

Five global risks that have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that may cascade to create global systemic crisis, have been listed by “The Future of Earth, 2020”, which was released here on Thursday by the South Asia Future Earth Regional Office, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science.


The report, released by K. Kasturirangan, former Chairman, ISRO, lists failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation; extreme weather events; major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; food crises; and water crises, as the five global risks.

As many as 222 leading scientists from 52 countries conducted the survey by Future Earth, an international sustainability research network. The Bengaluru launch was among similar parallel ones across other parts of the world scheduled between February 13 and 21.

The report was prepared with the aim of reducing carbon footprint and halting global warming below 2 degree Celsius by 2050.

Offering examples of how the interrelation of risk factors play a role, scientists say extreme heat waves can accelerate global warming by releasing large amounts of stored carbon from affected ecosystems, and at the same time intensify water crises and/ or food scarcity. The loss of biodiversity also weakens the capacity of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climate extremes, increasing our vulnerability to food crises, they point out.

Politics, biodiversity and climate change

Among the chapters in the report is one on climate, focusing on ‘dialing down the heat’.

Lead author Diana Liverman, School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona, points out that over the last 18 months, major assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the US National Climate Assessment, and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, have all argued that time is running out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This has inspired declarations of a climate crisis or climate emergency by the leaders of more than 700 cities, States and governments. Yet, during 2019, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached more than 415 ppm, and the five years from 2014 to 2018 were the warmest recorded over land and ocean since 1880,” read the report.

In another chapter, ‘Populism versus grassroots movements’ author Richard Calland, University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership, and Associate Professor of Public Law, University of Cape Town, said “right-wing populism, a breed of politics that exploits people’s fears during times of economic decline and growing inequality, and that focuses on nationalist tendencies to clamp down on borders and reject immigrants,” is on the rise around the world. This, he argues, often leads to a denial of climate change facts or impacts.

Humans have now “significantly altered” 75% of our planet’s land area; about a quarter of species in assessed plant and animal groups are threatened, writes Cornelia Krug, Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland, lead author of ‘The unravelling web of life’, in the chapter on biodiversity, pointing out that in 2018, the world’s last male northern white rhino died in his Kenyan enclosure, while the Brazillian blue parrot, Spix’s Macaw, was declared extinct in the wild. “Reversing the trends of loss of life on this planet will require some new ways of thinking about conservation,” the author says.

On food, lead author Jiaguo Qi, Center for Global Change and Earth Observations, Michigan State University, USA, speaks about ‘rethinking global security’. “Strains on food production are expected to increase, as a result of various forces including climate change, biodiversity loss, and a global population on the rise,” the author says.

Tracking false news

False news travels six times faster and can reach up to 100 times more people, says the ‘Our future on earth’ report on the role of media.

Lead author Owen Gaffney, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Stockholm Resilience Centre, in ‘Industrializing disinformation’, says the flow of information in the world is changing, as today, around half of the planet’s 7.6 billion people are online, deeply influenced by social media, search engines and e-commerce algorithms.

“These digital platforms tend to favour the spread of information designed to engage with emotion over reason, can cause the propagation of “fake news”, and can lead to social harms like an erosion of trust in vaccines,” the author says.

Environmental health and education

Dr. Kasturirangan, who released the report, said the National Education Policy will address the question of environmental health and education at the school level."Children in the last four years of secondary education will have a reasonable grounding to be sensitive towards the environment. Without it no government rules and policies can be helpful," he told reporters on the sidelines of the launch. (Source: The Hindu)

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