CLIMATE CRISIS: Can We Reverse the Red?
| IOP Desk - 22 May 2022

Climate Crisis: Can We Reverse the Red?

(YES, we can successfully reverse the climate to a pre-existing acceptable baseline)

 

By Yogendra Babu Sharma

New Delhi, May 22, 2022

 

In our Earth’s system: the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere; are so interconnected that any change in one of these spheres affects others. This change is at last visible in the form of functioning variability in a particular ecosystem. The lithosphere includes the soil crust and acts as the foundation of terrestrial ecosystems and the source of nutrients because soils are formed from the parent geologic material which builds soil structure, soil texture, water holding capacity, and fertility (nutrients). The atmosphere regulates the climate and creates the environmental conditions of an ecosystem. The hydrosphere facilitates the movement of water throughout oceans, icebergs, rivers, streams, lakes, and water vapours in the atmosphere. In the end, our biosphere acts as the ultimate life zone. In this way, all physical, chemical, and biological processes in any ecosystem are interlinked. It means any induced change through human activity in the biosphere would also introduce a change in the atmosphere and hydrosphere or vice versa.

 

Humans are an integral part of biotic resources on the Earth, but most human activities have negative impacts on our Earth’s system. For example, humans have cleared the forests, dammed the rivers, drained the wetlands, burned the fossil fuels, and released a variety of chemicals, thereby introducing many changes in all spheres of Earth’s system. If we look at one human activity deforestation alone, we would find a series of cascading effects. The evidence suggests that half of the Amazon basin's rainfall is returned to the atmosphere by evapotranspiration. Still, human activity of intensive deforestation in the Amazon basin was encouraged for economic gain that has altered the precipitation pattern in the entire catchment.

 

Technically, forest cover affects the hydrological cycle considerably by returning the precipitated water back to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration and also to the soil by infiltration. This phenomenon of forest cover is known as the SPONGE effect because the roots soak up the water during wet periods and release it slowly during the dry season to maintain water supplies, which brings continuity to the entire process of evapotranspiration. Also, vegetation plays a crucial role in any river basin by protecting soil against erosion, which is also observed in the form of increased surface run-off and heavy sediment load in deforested catchments, finally causing physiological changes in the soils due to loss of nutrients and organic matter.

Means, if a single human activity like deforestation can alter the entire hydrological cycle, then, the impacts of multiple human activities must have far-reaching effects on Earth’s system. One of these effects is now being experienced in the form of unprecedented climate crises across the globe. In fact, climate change is a dynamic process and occurrence of climate variations remains consistent throughout Earth’s history. According to a recent IPCC Assessment Report, the Mean Sea Level was about 4 to 6 M higher during the last interglacial period (c. 125 thousand years ago) than in the 20th Century. And, inferred warming was largest over Eurasia and northern Greenland, whereas the summit of Greenland was simulated to be 2°C to 5 °C higher than the present [sic], which is good news and quite an optimistic finding to recognize the vibrant behaviour of the climate.

 

So, climate change is not new but some aspects and particularly its rapid increase are not usual and acceptable. For example, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has reached to a new high level compared to the levels during more than the past half-million years is too at an exceptionally fast rate. The IPCC in its report has also revealed that current global temperatures are warmer than they have ever been observed during at least the past five centuries or perhaps even for more than a millennium. And, if such a record increase in the temperature is allowed to be continued at the same rate, the resulting climate change within this century itself would be extremely unusual. Hence, urgent climate action is indispensable to tackle the climate emergency. In fact, we need to act swiftly, keeping prolonged climate negotiations and the protocols including the Paris Agreement, COP26, or even forthcoming COP27 aside.

 

Thus, it is important to explore: whether any nature-based (commonly accepted) solution can reverse the climate across the world? And, the answer is indeed a big YES. Scientifically, the restoration of environmentally degraded ecosystems now offers a new hope to mankind which makes it possible to counter the human impacts effectively. Thus, in order to secure net-zero by 2050 and to keep 1.5 degrees within reach; a worldwide mission for restoration of the ecosystems can be a perfect nature-based definite solution to the problem. This climate action can be unanimously agreed by all parties to UNFCCC and reverse the climate successfully to a known pre-existing tolerable baseline.

  

The author, Yogendra Babu Sharma is an Oxonian with the Government of India, Ministry of Jal Shakti, CGWB.

 

IMAGES COURTESY: Pic 1- The Daily Beast; Pic 2- Macleans.ca; Pic 3- Discover Magazine


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