Frozen solid: An intense cold wave has hit parts of north India, especially Jammu & Kashmir, which is facing a severe water crisis as a result | Photo: The New Indian Express

New year brings with it severe cold wave across the world

The year began with reports of extreme cold weather in many parts of the world. A new study revealed that this could be a result of a meteorological event unfolding high above the North Pole. The sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) event took place on January 5, 2021. Such events are often followed by extreme cold weather and severe cold storms, according to scientists. 

In central Spain, Storm Filomena brought the heaviest snowfall the country has seen in decades, resulting in the death of four people. Temperatures are expected to fall to below -10°C as several areas remain cut-off as a result of the storm. 

A cold wave was also reported in North India, with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issuing an orange alert for the next four days. Jammu & Kashmir is battling its harshest winter in decades. Frozen water pipelines have led to a severe water crisis in villages in the region, forcing residents to travel miles in sub-zero temperatures in search of drinkable water. 

Baked-in global warming enough to surpass set climate goals: Study

The amount of global warming that has already been baked into the air is enough to surpass the agreed-upon climate goals, a new study warned. But even though the inevitable cannot be stopped, it can be delayed, for centuries, if countries act fast enough and stop emitting greenhouse gases, the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, further stated.

Whether that will happen is still debatable. The Arctic wildfires and Atlantic tropical storms made 2020 the joint-hottest year on record despite a cooling La Niña at the beginning of the year. It shares this dubious distinction with the year 2016. The average surface temperature was 1.25°C higher than pre-industrial conditions – not far from the 1.5°C temperature limit set under the Paris agreement.  

As we enter the Paris Agreement era, things don’t seem to be looking any better. The UK’s Met office predicted that in 2021, human activity will push the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to 50% higher than the pre-industrial era. The emissions will largely be a result of fossil fuel use and deforestation.  

Satellite data alerts put brakes on Africa’s forest cover loss: Study 

In some good news, there has been some arrest in Africa’s rapidly receding forest cover, thanks mainly to satellite data alerts, a new study stated. These free alerts, issued by the Global Land Analysis and Discovery alert system since 2016, warn when trees are being destroyed. As a result, the study found the risk of deforestation was 18% lower in 2016-2018 compared to previous years in nine African countries. 

Study proposes cost-effective layout of carbon capture, storage in line with 2°C warming target 

A new study put forward a possible global layout of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), which could help limit global warming to under 2°C. The study identified 3,093 carbon clusters and 432 sinks in 85 countries and regions, which can be used to achieve 92 GtCO2 mitigation with CCUS. According to the layout, 64% of this mitigation will be sequestered into sedimentary basins for aquifer storage, while 36% will be used for CO2 EOR (enhanced oil recovery). The total cost would be 0.12% of global cumulative gross domestic product. While the study found this layout will be economically feasible, it would require global collaboration on all aspects – including financial and technological.