Europe: World’s Fastest Warming Continent

GS-1 or 3 Mains : Environment or Geography

Revision Notes 

Question : Evaluate the impacts of climate change on human health as outlined by the IPCC, emphasizing the threats posed to essential health factors  and discuss the role of greenhouse gases in exacerbating these health risks.

  • Temperature Rise
    • Warming at nearly twice the global average.
    • Latest 5-year average: 2.3°C above pre-industrial levels (compared to 1.3°C globally).
  • Extreme Heat Stress
    • Most days with “extreme heat stress” defined as “feels like” temperature exceeding 46°C.
  • Glacier Loss
    • Alps lost 10% of glacier volume in 2022-2023 (4.4% loss in 2023 alone).
  • Renewable Energy
    • Generated 43% of electricity from renewables in 2023 (up from 36% in 2022).
  • Human Health Impacts
    • Increased heat-related deaths across the continent.
    • Over 150 lives lost in 2023 due to weather events (storms, floods, wildfires).
    • €13.4 billion estimated economic loss from weather/climate events in 2023.

What is Climate Change?

  • Long-term shifts in global or regional climate patterns.
  • Primarily driven by human activities:
    • Burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas)
    • Deforestation
    • Industrial processes
  • These activities release greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, causing:
    • Global warming: Earth’s temperature is rising.

Impact on Health

  • Threatens essential ingredients for good health:
    • Clean air
    • Safe drinking water
    • Nutritious food
    • Safe shelter

Greenhouse Gases

  • Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere.
  • Act like a greenhouse (letting heat in but not out).
  • Key Greenhouse Gases:
    • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – 64% of warming effect
    • Methane (CH4) – 16% of warming effect
    • Nitrous Oxide (N2O) – 7% of warming effect
  • Industrial Fluorinated Gases:
    • Man-made during industrial processes
    • Very potent heat trappers (despite low concentration)
    • Examples: HFCs, PFCs, SF6

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

International treaty established in 1994 to address climate change.

Aim: Stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations to prevent harm to the climate system.

Key Features:

  • Parties:198 member countries.
  • Conference of the Parties (COP):Supreme decision-making body; meets annually.
  • Funds for Developing Countries: Developed nations provide financial support for climate action in developing countries.

Related Agreements:

  • Kyoto Protocol (1997):Sets legally binding emission reduction targets for developed countries.
    • Operates under the UNFCCC framework.
  • Paris Agreement (2015):Builds on the UNFCCC, aiming to limit global warming to below 2°C (ideally 1.5°C).
    • Emphasizes nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for climate action by all countries.

India’s Fight Against Climate Change

Renewable Energy Push:

  • Ambitious targets to increase renewable energy capacity.
  • Investments in solar and wind power to reduce fossil fuel dependence and emissions.

International Commitments:

  • Signatory to Paris Agreement.
  • Aiming for 50% electricity from renewables by 2030.
  • Committed to reducing carbon intensity.

Forestry Initiatives:

  • Programs to increase forest cover, restore degraded lands, and promote sustainable management.
  • Recognizing forests’ role in carbon capture and climate regulation.

Clean Transportation Focus:

  • Promoting electric vehicles (EVs) with a target of 30% market share by 2030.
  • Government incentives and subsidies for EV production and adoption.

Building Climate Resilience:

  • Investments in measures to adapt to climate change, especially in vulnerable sectors:
    • Agriculture
    • Water resources
    • Coastal areas
  • Developing climate-resilient crops, water conservation techniques, and disaster preparedness.

Global Cooperation:

  • Active participation in international forums and collaborations:
    • International Solar Alliance
    • Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure


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