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This year, India recorded the highest temperatures for March in 122 years, while Pakistan recorded its hottest April ever. Normally, such a phenomenon would occur once in 312 years, according to the study by the UK Met Office. However, because of climate change, such extreme weather events can now be expected every 3.1 years. By the next century, the gap will reduce further to every 1.15 years.
However, this is only the tip of the melting iceberg when it comes to the fallout from climate change. From widespread diseases to species going extinct, here are some of the disasters that we may see in the coming times.
A study by Georgetown University published on April 28, this year, revealed that we can expect many more global pandemics like COVID-19. While not all will be on the scale, there will be a steady increase in cross-species viruses spreading to humans.
The study involved an in-depth study of how climate change is restructuring the global mammalian virome. It also included a study of how species are being forced to migrate to habitats in new areas, where the first-time interaction with other mammals result in an unprecedented exchange of viruses. According to the researchers, this will increase the spread of viruses like Ebola or other coronaviruses. These will be difficult to track, making the transition to humans easier. The recent outbreak of Monkeypox is also likely another example of this.
The sudden change in temperatures will increase the incidence of vector-borne diseases. This includes dengue fever, Zika virus, and malaria. These diseases affect reproductive health causing miscarriages, premature births, and anaemia. Additionally, food scarcity brought on by climate change will disproportionately impact girls and women, making them more vulnerable to diseases brought on by extreme weather events.
The Sixth Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released this year found that global warming is largely irreversible, resulting in temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius. If we do not act by 2030 to reverse some of the damage we have done, things are set to go from bad to worse.
According to the report, in 2019, global carbon emissions from fossil fuels reached 36.44 billion metric tons. During the pandemic, when countries went into lockdown, this reduced by 5.8 percent. However, in 2021, carbon emissions reached over 33 billion tons.
On average, about five species on the planet go extinct per year by natural order. But human activity is likely to accelerate that process—by over 1,000 times—and there is evidence to show that dozens of species go extinct each day, according to the UN Environment Programme. At this rate, a third to half of the species on the planet could go extinct by the middle of the century.
The population of vertebrates has dropped by more than half between 1970 and 2014, says a Living Planet Report by the Zoological Society of London and the World Wide Fund. Climate change will only increase the pace of this decline. An increase of two degrees will leave five percent of the population at an increased risk of extinction. Among the most at risk are the world’s marine and coral reefs, which will dwindle to one percent of their current cover if the earth warms by two degrees.
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