Belying a layman guess that the planet Earth might have become cooler in 2020, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) authenticated the highest average temperature on record in the year —one that matched only that of 2016. It was also the warmest decade on record. A layman cannot be blamed for arriving at a conclusion that temperature should drop —however little it may be —because of the prolonged closedown enforced by governments the world over in order to minimise coronavirus infection. In Dhaka city, the largest and highly crowded urban centre in this country, empty roads, closure of offices, business, restaurants and shopping malls and educational institutions in the first few months curtailed emission of carbon dioxide gas drastically and one could feel the difference.
Trees put on fresh and greener leaves. Grass, creepers and bushes experienced lush growth, taking full advantage of near total absence of the reckless encroachment of the planet’s most dominant species. Birds and animals —quite a few of them rare and are spotted only in selected sites —started visiting this temporarily rush-free, pollution-free and noise-free capital. A city of few trees much less of woodlands at least gave a false sense of a place uninhabited by people who were home quarantining at the time. Strict lockdowns prompted queer mammals like civet cat, badger and even big cats like puma and lion apart from deer, coyote and even an elephant, sea lion along with peacocks, penguin and pelican to venture into city spaces and wander on deserted streets in many countries.
It was like a journey to the primitive world where gas-emitting vehicles, factories and industries have all but vanished suddenly. This should have been enough cause for drastically reducing greenhouse gas. But the C3S informs that the earlier atmospheric accumulation of gas has been responsible for raising the temperature. It is undoubtedly manmade. No wonder that the average temperature was 1.25 C higher than the pre-industrial level. While Europe experienced the record rise in temperature of 0.4 C, parts of the Arctic and northern Siberia witnessed last year wide divergences from the usual annual temperature. In some regions of these places temperature rise was recorded at 3.0 C higher and at others even 6.0 C higher.
Natural disasters like wildfires, hurricane, floods and untimely monsoon winds generated in the Arabian Sea have definitely offset the gains made from worldwide lockdowns. The arctic temperature rise can be explained by the lowest sea ice due to its melting and the influence of wildfire. But Siberia’s highest temperature at 30 C should remain baffling. It is here that the largest deposit of the planet’s permafrost lies. Answer to what induced the wide temperature variations and the record rise in temperature there has to be found and the sooner it is done the better.
Those who thought that coronavirus has at least done some good to the planet by arresting temperature rise will be terribly disappointed. There is no alternative to taking drastic measures to curtail greenhouse gas. The Paris Climate protocol is likely to prove inadequate in the face of a faster rise in global temperature than was anticipated when climate scientists drafted the climate accord. They have already started warning political leaders about the terrible consequences the planet is heading for.
One good thing is that the megalomaniac of a president who withdrew America from climate change conferences is soon going to be replaced by a sober and pragmatic leader who has already committed himself to the climate cause. Another positive development has taken place in the technology of vehicles. Electric cars, some of them producing electricity from solar power, have already completed trial run or are doing so to modernise them further. There are many areas where human beings can cut on their use of fossil fuel if only they make small sacrifices for natural living rather than opting for artificially more comfortable and luxurious life. Before the planet turns into a cauldron, let people learn the virtues of a simpler life.