The Earth is warming up and the process threatens to be irreversible. In a recent intertiol study employing four different measuring systems, it has been revealed that 2014 the hottest year in recorded history. New records were set in important indicators of climate change like rising land and ocean temperatures, sea levels and greenhouse gas concentrations. It was hotter in South Asia than the average warm temperatures in 2014. As for India, the annual mean temperature was 0.52 degree Celsius above the 1961-90 average. Europe went through its warmest year on record, both in terms of average annual temperatures, but record patches of high temperatures. Record heat in Australia early last year and California’s hottest year further contributed to the overall heat. Among extreme weather phenome, there were 91 tropical cyclones worldwide, which can be compared to the average figure 82 in 30 years. The report titled ‘State of the Climate in 2014’ was compiled by US tiol Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with inputs from scientists from 58 countries. While most of the figures in this study are very much in line with other studies on global warming in the past several years, some figures are really disquieting.
The most worrying aspect is that ocean surface temperatures were found to be the warmest in 135 years of records. The readings were taken from a global network of about 3,500 ocean temperature sensors. These measurements showed temperatures below the sea surface have been increasing, holding record levels of heat energy down to 2,300 feet. Sea water levels were also found to be considerably higher, partly because warmer water expands. Scientists have concluded that solar heat trapped by greenhouse gases, have in turn gone into the oceans. This increased heat energy trapped in the oceans is affecting all sorts of weather. The most heat has been found trapped in the waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. Snowbound Alaska was unusually warm last year, with subtropical fish which do not normally move that far north, found appearing off its coast. It has been estimated that oceans are absorbing about 93 per cent of the excess heat in the Earth’s system. In 2014, record ocean temperatures and land temperatures were made worse by record high levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. While carbon dioxide is responsible for about two-thirds of the heat changes caused by greenhouse gases, methane is considered a hundred times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat. The problem is that rising atmospheric and land temperatures are melting the Arctic permafrost, releasing vast quantities of methane in a dangerous self-reinforcing feedback loop, contributing to still further warming.
Quoting this report, scientists are now as warning that if this was planet Earth’s annual check-up ‘the doctor is saying it is gravely ill’. And what does this prognosis hold out for India? Weather experts believe that a rise in average global temperatures by 1-4 degree Celsius will likely make all outdoor work during the summer months impossible in northern India. If high carbon emission continues throughout the world, catastrophic flooding in the Ganges basin may become six times more frequent, occurring once in every five years. And if the ocean levels rise by even 1 metre, the probability of the Bay of Bengal inundating Kolkata is likely to increase a thousand-fold. India therefore has much at stake in the United tions climate-change talks slated to be held in Paris this December. The Copenhagen summit talks in 2009 had ended without a global deal, with major emitters US, EU and Chi pointing fingers at each other. Though the intertiol community is anxious to avoid such a fiasco this time, progress is at ‘a sil’s pace’ in the words of UN secretary general Ban-Ki-Moon. Still some encouraging news is coming from Paris lately, with most tions reportedly coming round to a broad commitment to restrict emission of greenhouse gases, while avoiding specific targets. The Paris meet will be crucial for India considering its high vulnerability to climate change — so how the country puts forward its development priorities, while properly addressing its economic, social and environmental aspects, will be vital for the interests of its people.