Global warming: A ticking time bomb

The world saw its hottest days from July 3 to 6, according to temperature readings from Climate Reanalyzer at the University of Maine, and scientists warn it is likely the records will continue to be broken this summer.  On Monday, the global average temperature was 17.01 °C and it rose to 17.23 °C by Thursday.

Scientists agree the high temperatures are being driven by human-induced global warming from emissions of greenhouse gases, and the naturally-occurring weather pattern known as El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean.  

The ocean absorbs about 90 percent of the heat from climate change but during El Niño, some of this heat is released back into the atmosphere.  However, in a sign global warming is intensifying, each El Niño cycle has tended to be hotter than the last, as temperatures continue to climb even higher. 

As the climate crisis shows no sign of abating, scientists are clear that record-breaking heat waves are set to become more frequent and more severe, causing loss of life and livelihood.  

The world is now seeing more extreme and frequent weather events from heatwaves, droughts, cyclones to floods.  The more deadly weather events cause loss of lives and have a fatal effect on public health. 

For example, in regions where vector-borne diseases are endemic, most cases like dengue occur during warmer periods of the year.  In addition, frequent and severe instances of hot days may lead to heatstroke and death.

Deadly weather events such as intense storms, flooding and prolonged droughts threaten global food security.  With an acidifying ocean, marine species and biodiversity are at risk of extinction, adding to food security woes.

We are also now witnessing a drastic rise in sea levels because of melting of polar ice caps.  This unnatural hasten pace of melting ice caps affects water availability for millions of people who rely on freshwater for drinking, irrigation and hydropower.

We are all affect by global warming

As the world continues to grapple with the devastating effects of global warming, it is becoming increasingly clear that every industry has a role to play in mitigating its impact. One industry that has been identified as a major contributor to global carbon emissions is the shipping industry. In fact, the industry is responsible for 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a figure that is expected to increase as global trade grows.

The shipping industry is vital to global trade, with 90 percent of the world’s goods transported by sea. However, with more than 90,000 commercial vessels traversing the oceans each day, its significant contribution to carbon emissions cannot be ignored. 

Aside from carbon emissions, the shipping industry is also responsible for other environmental impacts, such as water pollution, habitat destruction and increased noise pollution, which can have damaging effects on marine ecosystems. The industry must take these impacts seriously too and take appropriate action to minimize its effects on the environment.

Many climate groups and activists have called for the industry and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to do more to reduce carbon emissions, adopting cleaner fuels and improving efficiency.

During the recently concluded IMO MEPC 80 in early July, advocates were concerned by the failure to firmly align global shipping with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature-warming limit.  Additionally, they felt IMO had failed to take firm action to reduce black carbon, especially in the Arctic, which contributes around one-fifth of shipping’s climate impact.

Black carbon is a potent climate forcing pollutant with an impact over three thousand times that of CO2. The IMO has already formally recognized that black carbon is the second largest source of ship climate warming, and it is responsible for around 20 percent of shipping’s climate impact (on a 20-year basis). 

Black carbon has a disproportionately high impact when released in and near the Arctic.  When emitted from the exhausts of ships burning oil-based fuel and settles onto snow and ice, it accelerates melting and the loss of reflectivity – the albedo effect – which creates a feedback loop that further exacerbates local and global heating.

The shipping industry cannot tackle the climate crisis on its own. Collaboration between industry stakeholders, governments, and other sectors is essential. The IMO has to take a firm stance, call on all stakeholders to work together to achieve its carbon emissions targets, and implement more ambitious regulations that will help to reduce emissions.

As it is, at IMO MEPC 80, the 175 member states failed to agree on absolute carbon emission reduction targets for 2030 and 2040.  To ensure the shipping industry limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C as per the United Nations’ Paris Agreement, it will require carbon emissions to halve by 2030 and reach zero by 2040.

Everyone has a role to mitigate global warming

Ultimately, all shipping stakeholders, especially IMO and member states, cannot afford to ignore the impact of the climate crisis. They must take action to reduce carbon footprint and adopt sustainable practices, not only for the sake of the environment, but also for its own economic and long-term growth. 

There are economic benefits to the shipping industry taking action on climate change. With increasing demand for sustainable goods and services, companies that adopt sustainable practices are likely to be more attractive to customers and investors. 

In addition, investment in climate-friendly technologies and practices can lead to cost savings in the long term, as well as improved efficiency and competitiveness.

There are also opportunities for innovation and growth. The development of alternative fuels and energy-efficient technologies presents new business opportunities, for both established and emerging companies. The adoption of sustainable practices also supports the industry’s long-term growth and development, with customers increasingly demanding sustainable and ethical business practices.

By taking concrete steps to reduce carbon emissions and other environmental impacts, the IMO, member states and shipping industry can help ensure a more sustainable future for our planet.

Photo credit: iStock/ Pheelings Media

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