On May 14th, 2023, I called my mother in India on Mother’s Day. After several unanswered calls and desperate for an explanation, I turned to my father, who somberly informed me that my mother had fallen victim to heatstroke. The mere sound of her feeble voice, barely audible as my father held the phone to her ear, pierced my soul. “Son, I am very weak, it’s getting unbearably hot here,” she managed to utter. Those words etched a profound realization of climate change’s harrowing consequences and physical risks. This incident added to a series of climate-related dangers my mother had faced, including a life-threatening flood six years ago in Kerala, India. The grim sight of collapsing buildings and lifeless bodies floating amidst the deluge haunted her. She survived on a meager stash of a few slices of bread, sustaining both her and my diabetic grandmother for four agonizing days. The scars from past horrific experiences still haunt us, despite the fact that the most recent incident was less severe.
Others who have loved ones who are suffering from physical climate threats, such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves, understand the pain. We bear the burden of their vulnerability and work to make it urgent for people to realise how severe climate change is. Consider the suffering experienced when a loved one got COVID-19 or when you saw the terrible Canadian wildfires and the deteriorating air quality. These experiences highlight our common humanity at the core of society.
According to a study published in Nature Water 2023, natural catastrophes have grown recently along with severe droughts and excessive rainfall, driven by global warming rather than naturally occurring climatic patterns. The intensity of these occurrences is undeniable, as shown by numerous instances like the Australian Black Summer fires, Siberian heat waves, record-breaking temperatures in Puerto Rico and Spain, and the Pacific Northwest heatwave. The effects are already evident, as seen by occurrences in Asia that have gone unnoticed and dead fish on Texas’ Quintana Beach as a result of ocean warming. Human lives are at risk, as seen by the recent heatwave that killed nearly 170 people in India and the 8.25 million Somalians who face water shortages and possible death than previously reported.
These regular catastrophes threaten people, devastate ecosystems, and harm biodiversity. Droughts top the list of fatalities in the past 50 years, per the World Meteorological Organisation. Since both natural occurrences and emissions from human activity have contributed to climate change, its obvious that immediate action is required.
Now, let us shift our gaze to El Niño, a natural weather phenomenon that has reared its head in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The emergence of this climatic force has exacerbated the already dire climate change problem engulfing our globe. In their sombre announcement, a few days ago scientists forewarn us that this El Niño occurrence will make 2024 the hottest year ever measured. Prepare yourself for the many outcomes that could come to pass because they have the power to impact our planet by changing global weather patterns and escalating climate hazards everywhere.
El Niño, which is a key element of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), develops when warm waters from South America surge over the Pacific Ocean, releasing enormous amounts of heat into the atmosphere. Every two to seven years, there is a climatic oscillation that has three distinct phases: hot, cold, and neutral. The hot phase of El Niño, which is currently gripping the world, is expected to peak by the end of the year and leave a permanent impression on global temperatures.
El Niño escalation has a significant impact on the temperature and weather patterns of our planet. The monsoon rains in India may lose their vigour as Australia and portions of Asia face the threat of drier weather. On the other hand, the southern part of the US prepares for a flood of enhanced winter rains. Africa, which is frequently affected by drought, will probably see significantly drier circumstances during El Niño episodes. It is important to remember that these changes may not fully take effect until many months after El Niño begins to take hold.
The probable results of this El Niño event make it even more urgent to address climate concerns and rising temperatures. The cost of severe weather occurrences is high, both in terms of the toll they take on lives and the economy. Recall the powerful El Niño of 1997–1998, which caused over $5 trillion in damages and killed over 23,000 people as a result of storms and floods. A frightening likelihood exists that 2024 will surpass 2016 as the hottest year on record.
El Niño, in its role as an accelerant, amplifies the impact of human-induced global warming. The additional heat it injects into the system is anticipated to raise global surface temperatures by 0.1°C to 0.2°C. This, coupled with the persistent carbon pollution arising from our fossil fuel consumption, heightens concerns about breaching the symbolic 1.5°C threshold set forth by the Paris climate agreement. It is an unsettling trajectory, hinting at the likelihood of frequently surpassing this limit in the years to come.
The appearance of El Niño serves as a vivid reminder of the urgency we face as global temperatures rise and the climate crisis intensifies. The likelihood of 2024 breaking global temperature records, fuelled by the deteriorating El Niño phenomenon, forces us to take urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. As extreme weather events continue to batter the world, the effects of inaction become more tangible by the day. This should serve as a rallying cry for greater emission reductions and a shared commitment to tackling climate change.
To meet the world’s climate targets, it is essential to address the investment needs for climate change. By 2050, the net-zero transition will require investments in the climate totaling $125 trillion. Although this level of investment has not yet been reached, promising development has been made. $755 billion was invested globally in low-carbon energy technology in 2021, a 27% increase from the previous year. If current obstacles can be removed, there is the possibility to cut greenhouse gas emissions quickly if there is sufficient global capital available. By offering investors clear signals and capital, governments help to lower these barriers. Furthermore, investors, central banks, and financial regulators have the authority to address underpriced climate-related risks and close the funding gap.
The IPCCs latest AR6 2023 report, states that technology innovation systems and international cooperation are critical enablers for accelerating climate action. However, funding for both adaptation and mitigation must considerably expand across sectors and regions in order to meet climate goals. The report also highlights that the annual estimated mitigation expenditure requirements for scenarios limiting warming to 2°C or 1.5°C are three to six times more than the present. Current investment levels fall short. Furthermore, the report states that to accelerate adaptation, mitigation, and climate-resilient development, it is crucial to improve access to financing, eliminate financial gaps, and encourage fair access to both domestic and foreign investment. Policymakers and investors can successfully combat climate change and pave the path for a sustainable future by mobilising resources, enhancing risk-return profiles, and encouraging cooperative efforts. Let’s fire our optimism and release the limitless potential of money and capital as a potent force for good, directing it towards steadfast climate action. Together, we can take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to create a sustainable future, realise the $125 trillion net-zero transition’s enormous potential, inspire ground-breaking innovation, generate long-term financial gains, and zealously safeguard our priceless planet for future generations.