Concrete action needed to tackle climate crisis
The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) has indicated that the Antarctic saw a new temperature record of more than 18°C on Thursday and the matter is unquestionably a cause for worry as it can accelerate damage to the planet’s ice sheets and sea level rise. As per WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis, the record reading taken in the north of the continent, would be considered unusual, even during the current warmer summer months. Experts at WMO will now verify whether the temperature extreme is a new record for the Antarctic continent, which is defined as the main continental landmass. It should not be confused with the Antarctic region, which is everywhere south of 60 degrees latitude, and where a record temperature of 19.8C was recorded on Signy Island in January 1982. In a key report last September from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), researchers had clearly warned that hundreds of millions of people are at risk from melting ice in the planet’s polar regions, linked to sea level rise. The Antarctic is cold, windy and dry. The average annual temperature ranges from about minus 10°C on the Antarctic coast to minus 60°C at the highest points of the interior. According to United Nations officials, its immense ice sheet is up to 4.8 kilometres thick and contains 90 per cent of the world’s fresh water, enough to raise sea level by around 60 metres, were it all to melt. The world community should take a serious note of Nullis’ observation about glacier melt. Around 87 per cent of glaciers along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated in the last 50 years, with most of these showing an accelerated retreat in the last 12 years. Concern is particularly high over the main glacier tributaries to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, in particular the Pine Island glacier, where two large rifts that were first spotted in early 2019 have each grown to some 20 kilometres long.
The climate crisis is brewing on multiple fronts. For example, aggressive deforestation is starting earlier this year in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest with government data showing destruction doubling in January compared with a year ago. More than 280 square kilometers of rainforest were destroyed last month, according to preliminary statistics released by space research agency INPE. There are some positive developments too. Green-leaning Bristol in late 2018 became the first British city to declare a “climate emergency”. As part of that move, it announced an ambitious, stepped-up target to cut its planet-warming emissions to net zero by 2030. According to advocacy group The Climate Mobilization, which is trying to persuade governments to respond urgently to climate change, more than 1,300 local governments in about 25 countries have now declared a “climate emergency”. But in many cases, translating that into concrete action is an uphill struggle. In January, Barcelona city hall declared a climate emergency – but only after holding a series of public consultations in the preceding three months, involving representatives of about 200 organisations, to thrash out a comprehensive action plan. The document contains more than 100 measures to enable the city to meet a tighter target of cutting its emissions by 50% by 2030 and also to help residents adapt to climate change impacts, backed with $623 million of public money. Climate crisis cannot be wished away and taking appropriate remedial measures is a prime duty of world leaders.