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Rise in temperature amidst lockdown means we did activities that 'warmed' atmosphere

By Dr Gurinder Kaur*

According to the data released on January 14, 2021 by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2016 was the hottest year on record since 1880, with an average temperature rise of 1.00 degree Celsius. With an average temperature rise of 0.98 degree Celsius; 2020 got the second place pushing 2019 to third place.
The average temperature rise of only 0.02 degree Celsius in 2020 is lower than the 2016 temperature rise and 0.03 degree Celsius higher than 2019. The first ten years with highest temperature since 1880 are all in the 21st century, recorded in 2016, 2020, 2019, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2014, 2010, 2013 and 2005 respectively.
According to NOAA’s data, 2011-2020 has been the hottest decade ever and the average temperature of the land and sea has risen by 0.82 degree Celsius in this decade compared to a rise of 0.20 degree Celsius above normal average temperature in the decade of 2001-2010.
The average temperature of earth began to rise only after the Industrial Revolution. Until 1980 the annual average rate of rise in temperature was very low, a mere 0.08 degree Celsius, but since then it has risen to 0.18 degree Celsius.
According to NOAA’s report the average temperature rise in the Northern Hemisphere in 2020 was the highest in 141 years. The Northern Hemisphere recorded 2020 as the hottest year on record with an average temperature rise of 1.2 degree Celsius, while the Southern Hemisphere recorded a rise of 0.77 degree Celsius and 2020 was the fifth warmest year.
In 2020 the average temperature of almost all the countries of the world increased. This year has been the hottest year ever in Europe. The average temperature in Europe and Asia has risen by 2 degree Celsius. Temperature in Australia, South America, the southern parts of North America and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans has also been above average.
The Arctic temperature is three times higher than the rest of the world while the average temperature of the Arctic is five times higher than at the time of the Industrial Revolution. Siberia, once known as the coldest part of the world, has recorded an increase of 30 degree Celsius in temperature in June 2020. In addition, rising temperature has led to wildfire in California ,Siberia and Australia.
Despite being the year of Covid-19 and La-Nina, the temperature in 2020 rose so much that it became the second warmest year ever. As a result of Covid-19, almost all the businesses that emit greenhouse gases were shut down during the lockdown period in most of the countries of the world, resulting in a 7 per cent decline in the emission of greenhouse gases.
The rise in temperature in 2020 indicates that we were doing some activities during and after the lockdown that have been constantly warming the atmosphere. It may be our lifestyle which has not changed during this period. 
According to the ‘Eleventh Annual Gap Emission Report’ of the United Nations Environment Programme, emission of greenhouse gases is growing at an average of 1.4 per cent annually between 2010 and 2019.Once emitted, these gases remain in the atmosphere for a long period of time and contribute in constantly increasing the temperature.
The year of 2020 was a La-Nina year. The La-Nina and El-Nino phenomenon greatly affect the average temperature of the globe. In the year of La-Nina, the earth’s temperature usually declines ,while in the year of El-Nino it rises. Although transitioning of La-Nina began in August 2020, its impact was limited to the fact that the average temperature in November and December was a little bit lower than in other months of the year.
Since 2016 was the year of El-Nino it was natural for temperature to be above average. On the other hand, it is shocking that despite 2020 being the La-Nina year there was a rise in the temperature. This calls into question human activities and efforts to curb the rise in temperature and suggests humanity to reduce the rapid emission of greenhouse gases. If 2020 had been a normal or El-Nino year rather than a La-Nina year then its average temperature rise would have been much higher than now.
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing year by year. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before the Industrial Revolution was only 280 ppm (parts per million) which increased to 316.91 ppm in 1960 and for the first time on May 9,2013 the concentration of carbon dioxide reached at 400 ppm at Mona Loa in Hawaii, where its concentration is recorded daily.
On an average, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had increased at the rate of 0.06 ppm per annum during 1880 -1960 which was relatively slow but during the past one decade it has increased at the rate of 2 ppm per annum which is a rapid rise. 
India promised to generate 40% of its energy from natural resources by 2030, but its coal-fired power generation capacity will increase by 22% in 2022 compared to 2018
During the lockdown period in 2020,the average concentration of carbon dioxide recorded in the month of May was 417.16 ppm which is the highest concentration ever. The main causes for the increasing concentration in the atmosphere are human activities -- eating, drinking, way of living, use of fossil fuel, deforestation and the like.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report ‘The State of Global Climate ,2020’ the global average temperature has risen by 1.2 degree Celsius from January to October. The seven years from 2014 to 2020 have been the hottest so far, according to the NOAA 2020 Annual Climate Report.
In 2014, for the first time, a report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that the emission of greenhouse gases are causing the rise in the global temperature, which will affect all the countries of the world with severe natural disasters caused by climate change. 
In response to the warnings given in the report of IPCC all the countries of the world responded immediately and in order to avoid the damage caused by global warming a plan was drawn up in 2015 in Paris for the rapid reduction in greenhouse gases, dubbed as the ‘Paris Climate Agreement’. They had prepared a blueprint for reducing emission of greenhouse gases in their respective countries and sent it to the United Nations.
The years from 2015 to 2020 are the hottest so far. The main reason for the rapid increase of temperature during this period is that not a single country in the world has taken the ‘Paris Climate Agreement ‘seriously. The United States, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the past, announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2017, saying it would destabilize the economy of our country and leave millions of jobless.
While the United States is followed by China, which currently emits more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world (28 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emission). China said it has reached the full potential of economic growth and will start reducing its emission after 2030 and reach zero emission by 2060.
Both of these countries are presently emitting 42 per cent of the total greenhouse gases emission into the atmosphere. Currently the European Union is the world’s third largest emitter of these gases and India is the fourth.
Although India has promised in the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emission and generate 40 per cent of its energy from natural resources by 2030, according to a report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in July 2019, India’s coal-fired power generation capacity will increase by 22 per cent in 2022 compared to 2018. China and the United States have also recorded 1.6 per cent and 2.5 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emission, respectively, in 2018.
Efforts need to be made at the international level to curb the rise in average temperature. Instead of increasing greenhouse gas emission for any reason, all countries of the world should try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Countries that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases into atmosphere should follow the example of the European Union, which has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 24 per cent from 1990 to 2019 since these countries have pledged to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases by 55 per cent at the 1990 levels until 2030.
According to the findings of different scientific studies if all countries cut 7.6 per cent per annum emission of greenhouses gases the increase in temperature will reach at the safe limit of 1.5 degree Celsius by the end of this century. Reliance on natural resources to generate energy will have to be increased to curb global warming.
There must be drastic changes in the way of our lifestyle. The area under forests should be rapidly increased and the corporate economic development model should be replaced by a nature and people- friendly economic development model so the living beings of the earth can be protected from the scourge of natural disasters.
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*Professor, department of geography ,Punjabi University ,Patiala

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