IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


2nd January, 2024 Environment


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  • Antarctic sea-ice extent reached a record low in the 45 years since satellite data was available. Arctic sea-ice extent remained well below normal. Extreme weather events ravaged all inhabited continents, exacerbating food insecurity, population displacement, and impacts on vulnerable people.
  • These are only a handful of the effects of climate change. Although scientists unequivocally agree that climate change is real, there are still many myths and a lot of confusion around the subject. In this series of explainers, we will try to answer some of the most fundamental questions about climate change, the science behind it, and its impact. In the first installment, we try to answer the question: ‘Is the Earth becoming warmer?’

How do we know that the Earth is warming?

  • One way is to look at temperature measurements that in some cases extend to the late 1880s.
  • Today, scientists use satellites to monitor surface temperature and put together, they indicate that the planet has become warmer. The average global temperature on Earth has increased by at least 1.1 degree Celsius since 1880, according to NASA.
  • There are also indirect methods to verify the increasing temperature of Earth. A 1998 study that analysed tree rings, ice cores and other natural indicators, showed that temperatures remained fairly flat for centuries before turning sharply upward.
  • Another way is to observe the effects of rising temperatures. Oceans are getting warmer, snow and ice cover are depleting in the Northern Hemisphere, the Greenland ice sheet is shrinking, and the sea level is rising.
  • These measurements are made with a variety of land-, ocean-, and space-based monitoring systems, which gives added confidence in the reality of global-scale warming of Earth’s climate.

Argument and its counter

  • One can, however, argue that Earth’s climate has always changed in its 4.5 billion-year history. While this is true, the rapid warming taking place in recent decades can’t be attributed to natural cycles of cooling and warming.
  • The kind of changes that would normally happen over hundreds of thousands of years are happening in decades,” a report by WWF said. For instance, the majority of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15 to 0.20 degree Celsius per decade.
  • Moreover, 2022 marked the 46th consecutive year (since 1977) with global temperatures rising above the 20th-century average. The 10-warmest years on record have all occurred since 2010, with the last nine years (2014-2022) among the 10-warmest years, a report by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

But what is behind Earth’s soaring temperature?

  • Simply put, greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Since the mid-19th Century, scientists have known that greenhouse gases have substantial control over Earth’s climate, despite their small amounts in the atmosphere. They trap the Sun’s energy in the Earth’s system before it escapes to space, leading to warming. This is known as the greenhouse effect, a process that is essential for keeping the planet at a suitable temperature for life.
  • The problem began when the Industrial Revolution kicked off in the 1700s. Human activities like the burning of fossil fuels like coal began to release high levels of greenhouse gases. As the global atmospheric concentrations of these gases went up, more and more heat got trapped and the Earth’s temperature started to increase.
  • According to a March 2023 Synthesis Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “human activities, principally through greenhouse gas emissions, have unequivocally caused global warming. The main drivers of these emissions are energy use, land use, and the consumption and production of goods.


Question: The rising global temperatures pose significant challenges to the Earth's climate system. In the context of the increasing concerns over the Earth's soaring temperature, discuss the potential impacts on ecosystems, human societies, and international cooperation. Also, analyze the role of sustainable practices and global partnerships in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. (250 words)

Model Answer:

The Earth's soaring temperature, primarily driven by anthropogenic activities leading to climate change, presents a multifaceted challenge with far-reaching implications for ecosystems, human societies, and the imperative for international cooperation.

Impacts on Ecosystems:

  1. Biodiversity Loss:
    • Rising temperatures contribute to habitat degradation, affecting various species and leading to biodiversity loss. Ecosystems that are unable to adapt may face collapse, disrupting ecological balance.
  2. Ocean Acidification:
    • Elevated temperatures contribute to ocean acidification, negatively impacting marine life, particularly coral reefs and shell-forming organisms. This poses threats to fisheries and coastal communities.
  3. Extreme Weather Events:
    • The increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, have direct consequences on ecosystems, causing habitat destruction and altering landscapes.

Impacts on Human Societies:

  1. Food Security:
    • Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns affect agricultural productivity, leading to potential disruptions in food supply chains and increased vulnerability of communities dependent on agriculture.
  2. Water Scarcity:
    • Altered precipitation patterns contribute to water scarcity in some regions. This impacts water availability for drinking, agriculture, and industry, leading to socio-economic challenges.
  3. Health Risks:
    • Soaring temperatures contribute to the spread of vector-borne diseases, heat-related illnesses, and exacerbate existing health disparities, especially in vulnerable populations.
  4. Migration and Conflict:
    • Climate-induced changes can lead to displacement and migration, potentially contributing to resource conflicts and social unrest as communities compete for dwindling resources.

International Cooperation:

  1. Paris Agreement:
    • The Paris Agreement, a landmark international accord, aims to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. International cooperation is crucial for its successful implementation.
  2. Technology Transfer:
    • Collaborative efforts in technology transfer, particularly in renewable energy, can accelerate the transition to sustainable practices, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
  3. Climate Finance:
    • Adequate financial support for climate-resilient infrastructure and adaptation measures is essential. Global partnerships can mobilize funds to assist developing nations in coping with the impacts of climate change.
  4. Capacity Building:
    • Building the capacity of developing nations to adapt to and mitigate climate change is a priority. Knowledge-sharing and technology diffusion contribute to global resilience.

Role of Sustainable Practices:

  1. Renewable Energy Transition:
    • Shifting towards renewable energy sources like solar and wind is imperative for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curbing global temperature rise.
  2. Conservation and Restoration:
    • Sustainable land management, reforestation, and conservation efforts are vital for maintaining carbon sinks and preserving biodiversity.
  3. Circular Economy:
    • Encouraging a circular economy that minimizes waste and promotes recycling helps reduce resource consumption and environmental impact.

In conclusion, addressing the Earth's soaring temperature necessitates a comprehensive approach that encompasses mitigation and adaptation strategies, international collaboration, and the adoption of sustainable practices. Effective policies and actions at both the national and global levels are essential for mitigating the adverse effects and ensuring a resilient and sustainable future for the planet.