Your search keywords:

A 2oC rise is too high for the Earth

A 2oC rise is too high for the Earth

Cryosphere Call to Action is an open letter for the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28), which is meeting under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Dubai. It is a movement to move forward with both urgency and ambition in mitigation of climate change due to the response of various components of the cryosphere, including glaciers, snow, permafrost, ice sheets and sea ice. The message of the cryosphere to global leaders is 2oC too high as global impacts and damage for each tenth of a degree higher, especially for longer periods, will grow well beyond the limits of adaptation.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change with the goal to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It was adopted by 196 Parties at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in 2015. However, temperature target of 1.5°C is not just a preference compared to 2°C. Instead, it implies that there is a significant difference between the two, suggesting that aiming for a rise in global temperatures of 1.5°C has distinct advantages and avoiding severe environmental impacts and is more imperative than settling for a limit of 2°C. UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also indicates that crossing the 1.5°C threshold risks unleashing far more severe climate change impacts.

Climate-induced disasters are becoming more frequent and severe, with devastating impacts on people and ecosystems around the world. These disasters include heat waves, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and sea level rise. Such events are killing thousands of people each year; causing widespread famine and displacement; destroying homes, businesses, and infrastructure. The 2022 flood submerged one-third of Pakistan, killed 1,739 people, affected 33m people, damaged most of the water systems and economic losses to the tune of $15.2bn (approx). Forty-two people died in the recent GLOF in Sikkim—77 people remain unaccounted for—and damaged hydropower projects, disrupting the generation of 1,200 MW. A flash flood in Mustang in 2023 damaged several houses, bridges and affected farmlands. Besides, the number of cryosphere-related hazards is increasing in the Himalayan region with increased warming in the high mountain region.

Message from the community

International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI), a network of senior policy experts and researchers working with governments and organizations, has released the call for action for Cryosphere for COP28. The summary of the call for action is as follows:

“The irreversible global damage caused by Cryosphere loss is already inevitable to some extent. The message is that this insanity cannot and must not continue. COP28, and December 2023 must be when we correct the course. The Cryosphere, encompassing Earth's ice sheets, sea ice, permafrost, polar oceans, glaciers, and snow, is ground zero for climate change. This is primarily due to the straightforward physical phenomenon of ice melting. The warming effect of CO2, predominantly stemming from fossil fuel usage, has already resulted in significant declines in glaciers and ice sheets, contributing to a rise in global sea levels. This phenomenon has also led to diminished water resources due to reduced snowpack, increased emissions of CO2 and methane resulting from thawing permafrost. It is time to carve a line in the snow: Because of what we have learned about the Cryosphere since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, 1.5°C is not merely preferable to 2°C. It is the only option.

The plea at COP28 is for global leaders to acknowledge the stark reality presented by the Cryosphere’s response, asserting that even a 2°C limit is too high. The call is to commit to the Paris Agreement’s “well below 2°C” target, which, in essence, translates to aiming solely for the 1.5°C threshold. If we don’t take decisive action against climate change, the consequences will be severe. Millions of people may be forced to leave their homes due to coastal flooding. We’ll face a shortage of clean water, and the delicate ecosystems in oceans and mountains will be disrupted. This will create long-lasting challenges for future generations. The main issue here is the increasing levels of CO2, reaching unacceptable heights. The scientific community advocates for a comprehensive stocktake with clear guidelines, a pathway to phase out fossil fuels and financial mechanisms to support climate action and adaptation. It’s crucial that we go beyond mere discussion and implement substantial measures to address the far-reaching effects of melting ice. It’s not enough to talk the talk; we must walk the walk.”

Meaning for Nepal

Nepal’s glaciers and snowpack are lifelines for the nation, supplying essential water for drinking, irrigation and hydropower generation. They are acting as a climate regulator and supporting unique ecosystems, including high-altitude forests, alpine meadows and glaciers, contributing to the country’s rich biodiversity. Being rich in cryosphere resources, it is urgent for Nepal to advocate for ambitious and achievable targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, including negotiating for increased financial support in research and development related to cryosphere science and adaptation measures. The funding is crucial for Nepal to understand the impacts of climate change on the cryosphere and develop effective adaptation measures in the high mountain areas. It also necessitates cooperation with other nations on cryosphere protection to learn from shared experiences and adopt best practices. This collaborative approach enhances the effectiveness of cryosphere conservation efforts. Such an effort will enable Nepal to implement the Cryosphere Call to Action effectively.

In this context, the Cryosphere Call to Action at COP28 UAE is a landmark opportunity for Nepal to raise its voice on this issue and address the imminent challenges posed by climate change.