Plundering of natural resources by the North in the past and now being accountable for ecological debt have augmented the debate on ozone depletion and climate change. Developing strategies with comprehensive methodologies and adequate tools and designs for mitigation and adaptation has compelled scientists the world over to protect vulnerable groups, flora and fauna, biodiversity, and the entire terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, which are under tremor and facing threats of depletion of the ozone layer and extinction of species due to anthropogenic causes mainly industrialization, urbanisation, deforestation, infrastructure development, transportation, unsustainable growth, and LULUF (land use, land use changes, and forest practices).
Presently, scientists have observed a tremendous change in climate and weather patterns compared to what existed in the pre-industrial period. Acidification. Salinities, degradation, desertification, forest fires, less agricultural production, challenges to human health and population security, melting of glaciers, sea water rise, torrential rains, massive landslides, soil erosion, mass migration of animals leading to a large-scale catastrophe, etc. could be appropriately argued as its manifestations. Consequently, it leads to massive ozone depletion and global warming, limiting livelihood resources, malnutrition, a reduction in hydrological processes, and a paucity of drinking water.
“Climate change is a change in the climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activities that alter the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over a comparable time period.” UNFCC article 1. Since pre-industrial time, carbon dioxide concentration has increased by 40 percent (278 278PPM to 390.5 PPM), methane, which has 22 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide, has increased by 150 percent (722 PPM to 1803 PPM), and nitrous oxide has increased by 20 percent (271PPM to 324.2 PPM). These are what we call greenhouse gases (GHGs), along with many other gases that are not lagging behind in this race. Among these fluorinated gases(CFCs, HFC, perfluorocarbon, sulphur hexafluoride) which are the product of varieties of industrial processes and water vapors etc are some of the important members of GHGs.
Many of these have a high GWP (global warming potential) and a long life span. So to say, for example, that the GWP of sulphur hexafluoride is 3200 (in relation to carbon, which is taken as one), increases to 17500 over a period of 20 years, and further increases to 23500 after 100 years in the atmosphere, “Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1 degree Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8 degree to 1.2 degree.” IPCC, 2018 report. During the year 1985, scientists absorbed the depletion of the ozone layer and found a hole of the magnitude of 24.5 million km2 over Antarctica, which is attributed to GHGs, mainly CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) used in air conditioners (ACs), refrigerators, fumigants, etc. UV rays break down CFC, releasing chlorine, which acts as a stealing agent by taking away one of the oxygen atoms from ozone to make CLO and oxygen.
The former quickly further breaks down to release the free chlorine in the stratosphere, repeating the process with a chain reaction. This way one chlorine atom succeeds in damaging more than one lacs of ozone molecules resulting in depletion and thinning of Ozone layer whereas prevailing conditions are quite favourable in early spring over the Antarctica region.
90 percent of ozone is found in the stratosphere between 20km and 50km above the earth’s surface, forming a layer that not only restricts UVB rays from entering the atmosphere but also protects biodiversity from its heating effects, health hazards, and environmental loss. UVB ray exposure is known to cause changes in the genetic setup (DNA), cataracts, non-melanoma skin cancer, immunity loss in humans, and hampered physiological and developmental processes in plants.
Phytoplankton, known as the foundation of aquatic food webs in the marine ecosystem, and carbon dioxide sequestration are affected by orientation and mortality. Research further estimated that a 16 percent loss of ozone would account for a 5 percent loss in phytoplankton cover, which would further lead to a reduction of 7 million metric tonnes of fish production per year and a 6 to 12 percent reduction in the ice zone in Antarctica.
Seawater temperature rise and acidification result in a reduction in shell formation in marine organisms, and the coral reef, which is the habitat for more than 40 percent of microorganisms in marine areas, kicks off the zooxanthellae algae in symbiosis and dies away. Beware; we are bound to be kicked off by the ecosystem soon in case adequate measures are not in place for its restoration and to reverse the trends.
Climate change as an environmental fact began to be felt in 1987 with the release of the Brundtland Commission publication “Our Common Future,” which implied that a world in which poverty is endemic will always be prone to ecological and other catastrophes. In 1987, the Vienna Convention decided to reduce the use of ODS (ozone-depleting substances) in a phased manner. On June 3–4, 1992, the UN Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio de Janeiro, wherein it reaffirmed the declaration of June 16, 1972, on Human Development held at Stockholm, making Agenda 21, popularly known as the Earth Summit, which led to the formation of the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCC), a treaty signed by 192 countries for carbon stabilization. In the year 1995, under the umbrella of the UNFCC Conference of Parties (COP), a series of conferences were created, and Berlin became the first in the series to host its first meeting during the same year.
Later in the year 1998, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with the joint efforts of the UNFCC and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), came into being to address environmental issues and reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere. In 1997, COP-3 was known as the Kyoto Protocol, wherein 39 industrialised countries focused themselves on reducing emissions of GHGs by 5.2 percent of the 1990 level by 2012. The carbon credit agreed to in the Kyoto Protocol for developing nations is supposed to help in ecosystem restoration and strengthening livelihoods.
In COP-21, known as the Paris Agreement (2015), signed by 175 countries for the reduction of emissions, which led to the formation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 as agreed by 193 member countries of the United Nations (UN) and complemented by commitments made in the Paris Agreement, 2015, popularly known as the 2030 Agenda, which has 17 interconnected goals with its well-defined 169 targets, which sounds like an enthusiastic global action plan for people, planet, and prosperity.
“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, UN General Assembly 1987, page 47
Environment loss will create gender bias as women are more prone to climate change, on which the entire family depends.
“Harvesting the natural resources without compromising the needs of future generations can help in improving our economy, growing stock, ecosystems, and biodiversity. If the poor strata of society are becoming poorer by virtue of losing what they possess or remain devoid of main streams of development, the system is not going to be sustainable, says Dr. Kulraj Kapur (2015), former Senior Scientist HFRI Shimla.
India’s green cover is 80.9 million ha (24.6%) of its total geographical area, which is far less than 33 percent as laid down in the National Forest Policy. India hosted COP-14 in New Delhi in September 2019, wherein India stood committed to the degradation and restoration of 26 million ha of degraded land by 2030 with a focus on sustainable and optimum utilisation of land resources.
In the Paris agreement, India’s intended nationally determined contribution is a 33–35 percent reduction in energy intensity of its GDP by 2030 over the 2005 level. Additional carbon dioxide sink of 2.5 to 3 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide by massive deforestation drives and sustainable mitigation strategies towards climate change impacts. “The existing agricultural, pasture, and forest land shrinks with the emergence of wasteland and alien invasive species due to mining, and there is a migration of people out of the area in search of a livelihood.” Dr. Ranvir Singh (2020), former Former of the agro-economic research institute at HPU Shimla, Land degradation leads to drought and desertification. 12 million ha of land are lost every year globally, meaning a net loss of 20 million metric tonnes of grains.
Currently, land degradation has reduced productivity to the extent of 23 percent of the global terrestrial area.
75 percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, which are interlinked with the ecosystem and transfer from animal to human, according to UNEP 2016. “Covid-19 is a way to humanity” says Inger Aderson, UNEP. We have in place a national action plan on climate change (June 2008) and a state action plan for mitigation and adaptation to address the various related issues related to climate change. Even with all these negotiations and dialogues at the international and national forums, the emission of GHGs on a large scale is still prominent. “74% of the poorest people in the world have been directly affected by land degradation globally, UN 2015.
Effective strategies and people’s participation and commitments will certainly help in tackling the problem and ensuring food security, livelihood security, and health security. “Hava chali varf jhhari, lekin kuch yaad aaya, Laga lo mujhe gale, Palayan na kar jaye jivan oos aur ki bhir lot ke aa na sake,” A few headings to flag the issue from this article’s author’s poetry book, “Srishti Vichar,” launched on World Environment Day by Hon’ble Cabinet Minister HP An increase in Earth’s temperature is posing a serious threat to biodiversity with the loss of habitat, migration of species, and extinction of species, giving rise to alien invasive species. “2.4% of diarrhoea cases and 6% of malaria cases due to climate change worldwide have been reported,” according to the 2002 WHO report 2002.Heat stress causes heat stroke, heat rashes, numbness of the hands and feet, kidney failure, and cardiovascular diseases.
The vector-borne disease influx increases with the increase in temperature, as has been observed. Psychological depression, aggression, and anxiety are increasing, posing serious challenges to the fast-developing world with the increase in earth’s temperature. The world population is around 7.6 billion and is likely to be 11.8 billion by the end of this century. The natural source crunch and reduction in agriculture production will be another challenge to tackle the malnutrition problem world-wide.
The COP 26 meeting was held in Glasgow, UK, where India stood by its commitment to be fossil fuel free by 2070. Integrated solid waste management for environmental benefit A change in lifestyles and a climate-resilient path have to be adopted along with green and clean technology.