Rising Greenhouse Gas and Sea Levels

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    • According to a report by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Greenhouse gas and sea levels touched new highs in 2021.

    Key Findings

    • Background: 
      • The report came days after a study said Greenland’s ice sheet is already beginning to melt to dangerous levels, even as it will raise sea levels without any heat in the future. 
      • This is expected to submerge the homes of hundreds of millions of people living in low-lying areas around the world.
    • Rising GreenHouse Gases: 
      • The amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere was 414.7 parts per million in 2021, which is 2.3 parts higher than in 2020.
      • The rise has been due to easing fossil fuel emissions last year, as much of the global economy has slowed sharply due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Increasing Sea Levels: 
      • Sea levels rose for the tenth year in a row. 
      • They reached a new record of 3.8 inches or 97 millimetres above the average for 1993, when satellite measurements began. 
    • Global warming: 
      • The year 2021 was among the seven-warmest years since global records began in the mid-to-late 1800s. 
      • It was also one of the six-warmest years on record as measured by global mean surface temperature.
    • Temperature fluctuations: 
      • The low average temperature was due to La Nina, an occasional phenomenon in the Pacific that cools waters. 
        • La Nina prevailed for all but two months of the year — June and July.
      • The month of February had the smallest temperature anomaly of the year for the globe and was the coldest since February 2014.
      • But water temperatures were also exceptionally high
        • Lakes in Tibet, an important region since it is a water source for many of Asia’s major rivers, recorded high temperatures
    • Growing disasters and fears:
      • Tropical storms, which increase as the Earth warms, spiked in 2021. 
        • Super Typhoon Rai, which killed nearly 400 people in the Philippines in December. 
        • Hurricane Ida wrought havoc in the Caribbean before becoming the second most dangerous storm to kill people in Louisiana after Katrina.
        • The premature blooming of cherry trees in Kyoto, Japan, for the first time after 1409.
        • The incidence of wildfires, which are also expected to increase due to climate change, was comparatively low after recent years, although devastating fires were seen in both the American West and Siberia.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    • About: 
      • It is a U.S. governmental agency established in 1970 within the Department of Commerce to study Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and coastal areas insofar as they affect the land surface and coastal regions of the United States.
    • Mission: 
      • To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, ocean, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

    Role of the US in climate change

    • World’s largest per capita emitter: 
      • The US ranks second, after China, in the total greenhouse gas emissions accounting for almost 25% of global emissions. 
      • In per capita terms, it is the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. 
      • This puts a larger share of responsibility on the US to steer the world in the direction of climate change.
    • Largest Economy and the sole superpower: 
      • The US has the economic clout to nudge the world towards global environmental recovery. 
      • Also, the US is considered the leader of the western world and holds the power to sway decisions at the global level in a particular direction.
    • Technological Leadership: 
      • The US has a powerful effect on the global climate paradigm because of its technological prowess. 
      • Therefore, many developing countries including India have asked for the sharing of technology to achieve faster and more efficient action on climate change. 
      • For example, manufacturing cheaper photovoltaic cells, the development of batteries and harnessing the potential of hydrogen as a clean, high-efficiency fuel, the construction of ultra-supercritical power plants etc.
    • Role of Polity: 
      • The political situation in the US is deeply divided on many issues including priority to economic recovery against global environmental commitments. 
      • The US government should lead for Climate change efforts. 

    Indian efforts against climate change

    • India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under Paris summit:
      • Decrease in Emissions intensity
      • Electricity generation capacity from non-fossil sources
      • Creation of Carbon sink
    • International Solar Alliance: 
      • ISA is a global alliance being initiated by India as well as headquartered in India, with France as a partner country. 
      • It is aimed at promoting research to develop more efficient, low-cost solutions to the global energy requirements, by leveraging advanced technology as well as providing incentives and regulation of solar power. 
      • Currently, it has 88 members
      • Initially, its membership was restricted to countries within the tropics, commonly referred to as countries with high solar resource potential. However, now it has been thrown open to all UN members.
    • Mobilisation of resources: 
      • India is earmarking a large part of its developmental resources to the fight against climate change. 
      • This is a stupendous effort as compared to the western countries, which are already at the advanced stages of development. 
      • In fact, through its efforts in the direction of utilisation of solar power, India has now created a situation where the generation of solar energy is now cheaper compared to any other source of power.
    • Climate Transparency Report: 
      • Amongst the G20 members, India is the only country to have consistently fared at the top in the Climate transparency report, with Indian actions being consistent with the goal of not allowing the global temperature to cross 2 degrees C of the pre-industrial levels.

    Way Ahead

    • The goal to limit temperatures above pre-industrial levels to 1.5 degrees Celsius should be strictly implemented across the world.
    • There is a need to shift from the sensational to the strategic. In order to stabilize rise in temperatures, two things have to happen:
      • Anthropogenic emissions must become net-zero and, 
      • In the interim, cumulative emissions cannot exceed a global carbon budget

    Source: DTE