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The Antarctic region has registered its highest-ever temperature on record as mercury soared over 20 degrees Celsius. Researchers logged 20.75 degrees Celsius on an island off the coast of the continent on 9th February – a record high temperature never seen before in the region. The latest reading follows another temperature record logged on 6 February, when an Argentinian research station at Esperanza had measured 18.3 degrees Celsius – the highest reading on mainland Antarctica. The previous record for the entire Antarctic region – which includes the continent, islands and ocean that are in the Antarctic climatic zone – was 19.8C, logged in January 1982.Although the new temperature reading was not part of a wider study, scientists warn it is enough to indicate how fast Antarctica is warming.

Causes of Melting Ice Glaciers:

Burning of fossil fuels

  • The burning of fossil fuels has resulted in the buildup of greenhouse gases in the environment thus influencing the warming trend because they trap heat in the atmosphere. The increase in temperatures is causing more and more glaciers to melt, consequently, this ends up exposing the earth underneath.
  • Oil and gas drilling
    • The oil and gas extraction process also emit Methane, which is the main constituent in natural gas. Plus, the gas is more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide, locking in heat more efficiently and escalating global warming. 21% of the greenhouse gas emissions including methane in the United States come from oil, gas, and coal that have been removed from government lands.
    • Avoidable seeping out and flawed infrastructure in natural gas manufacturing are so frequent that they add considerably to methane pollution in and around the regions. Oil and gas companies also time and again intentionally release methane into the atmosphere through emitting, the restricted discharge of natural gas, and burning some of it in the air.
  • Deforestation
    • Trees play a very important function in balancing the ecosystem and the overall cooling of the planer. Perhaps, that is why they are called the planet’s “natural fans”. So, cutting down trees to create more space for human activities is actually proving detrimental to the environmental balance.
    • Deforestation has a lot of negative effects such as the rising in the sea levels. Also, there is an increase in the release of carbon dioxide while less of it is being absorbed by trees because they are constantly reduced in number owing to deforestation. As a result, it hastens global warming and an increase in sea levels.
  • Ice breaking ships
    • During the months of summer, icebreaking ships head to the north into the Arctic Ocean, breaking through the ice at sea, the ships end up leaving trails of open waters. The Arctic sea ice is able to reflect most of the heat thus aiding in keeping the Arctic and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere cool.
    • Nonetheless, open water has a lesser ability to reflect back sun rays than ice does, thus the water takes in more of the heat. This ends up heating the water and in consequence melting more ice.

Extreme Changes Needed- UNEP 2019 Emission Gap report:

  • The world will fail to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year.
  • Global temperatures are set to rise about 3.2 degrees C by 2100, the report says, bringing catastrophic weather including hotter, deadlier heatwaves and more frequent floods and drought.
  • The top four emitters (China, USA, EU and India) contributed to over 55% of the total emissions over the last decade, excluding emissions from land-use change such as deforestation.
  • The rankings would change if land-use change emissions were included, with Brazil likely to be the largest emitter.
  • India is the fourth-largest emitter of Green House Gases (GHGs).
  • It is among a small group of countries that are on their way to achieve their self-declared climate targets under the Paris Agreement.
  • Solutions:
    • A full decarbonization of the energy sector is necessary and possible.
    • Renewables and energy efficiency are critical to the energy transition.
    • The potential emission reduction thanks to renewable energy electricity totals 12.1 gigatonnes by 2050.
    • Electrification of transport could reduce the sector’s CO2 emissions by a huge 72 per cent by 2050.
    • Each sector and each country has unique opportunities to harness renewable energy, protect natural resources, lives and livelihoods, and transition to a decarbonization pathway.

Consequences of melting glaciers:

  • A lot of places all over the world depend exclusively on the constantly flowing water from glaciers that are melting in producing electricity. Reducing or stopping the flowing of water will mean stopping the production of electricity. The modern world cannot do without electricity, in which case people will resort to other forms of producing electricity, some of which will end up polluting the environment and further increase global warming
  • It has ramifications for the global climate. This region is a heat source in summer and a heat sink in winter.
  • It could trigger a multitude of biophysical and socio-economic impacts, such as biodiversity loss, increased glacial melting, and less predictable water availability—all of which will impact livelihoods and well-being in the HKH.
  • Faster snow and glacier melting due to warming is already manifesting in formation of glacial lakes. Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) are becoming frequent and causing huge casualties and loss to local infrastructures.
  • Glaciers in HKH have been retreating faster, and consistently causing greater water flows in rivers. In Tibetan Plateau, river run off has increased by 5.5 per cent.
  • Most of the lakes in high altitudes have also reported water level rise by 0.2 m/year besides their surface areas expanding.
  • ICIMOD report paints a bleak picture for the future of a region that is the source of Asia’s 10 major rivers and provides water, food, energy and carbon storage for almost two billion people.
  • Biodiversity is in steep decline driven by human development, pollution, overexploitation of resources and climate change. Example: Urbanization is on rise in many of the HKH countries.
  • With the growing impacts of climate change, along with new infrastructure development, trade routes and hydropower dams planned for the fragile region, the effects on the biodiversity is set to worsen further.
  • Along with species loss this will mean the loss of the key environmental services the region provides – such as water and carbon storage – to the rest of Asia.
  • Many of these areas are remote and authorities have little control over border regions sometimes plagued with ongoing conflict. Example: Indo-Burma hotspot.