The Guardian • Issue #2054


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2054

Anna Pha

“If emissions follow the trajectory set by current NDCs, there is a less than five per cent chance of keeping temperatures well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and less than one per cent chance of reaching the 1.5°C target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement,” UK think-tank, Chatham House concludes in its 2021 Climate Risk Assessment Report. (September 2021) NDCs or Nationally Determined Contributions are the five-yearly climate action plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate impacts adopted by signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement. “Unless NDCs are dramatically increased, and policy and delivery mechanisms are commensurately revised, many of the impacts described in this research paper are likely to be locked in by 2040 and become so severe they go beyond the limits of what nations can adapt to. Heatwaves and drought are among these impacts.

“If emissions do not come down drastically before 2030, then by 2040 some 3.9 billion people are likely to experience major heatwaves, 12 times more than the historic average. By the 2030s, 400 million people globally each year are likely to be exposed to temperatures exceeding the workability threshold. Also by the 2030s, the number of people on the planet exposed to heat stress exceeding the survivability threshold is likely to surpass 10 million a year.” “By 2040, the average proportion of global cropland affected by severe drought will likely rise to 32 per cent a year, more than three times the historic average.” Yields are predicted to decline by 30 per cent in the absence of dramatic emissions reductions. Global demand for agricultural food products is set to increase by almost 50 per cent by 2050.

“No region will be spared, but by 2040 East and South Asia will be most impacted – with, respectively, 125 million and 105 million people likely to experience prolonged drought. Across Africa, 152 million people each year are likely to be impacted,” the Chatham House report estimates.

This is not just the future. According to a food security working group chaired by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development, almost 23 million people are believed to be highly food insecure in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. During the 2011 famine more than 260,000 people died of starvation in Somalia alone. Today around 1.3 million people, 80 per cent of them women and children, have been internally displaced in Somalia by a five-year drought, the longest and most severe in Somalia’s recent history. Drought conditions in the Horn of Africa are on a path to being worse than they were during the 2011 famine.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the wealthy countries that are responsible for the bulk of historical emissions to speed up climate efforts in order to avert dangerous climate warming. They “must commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040,” while emerging economies should aim to do so by 2050, he said. Australia is one of those countries. Instead of spending hundreds of billions on nuclear submarines, long-range strike systems, expansion of US bases, and sacrificing Australia’s sovereignty and security to AUKUS, Australian government should be redirecting these funds towards achieving genuine security and wellbeing of the people of the Australia and the region. This includes mitigation and adaptation measures, aid to Pacific Island countries, no new gas or coal projects, and a rapid and just transition to renewables.

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More