Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam: Paper - II (General Studies – I) - 01 November 2018

Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam

UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper-II: General Studies - I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)

Q. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its ‘special report’ on keeping global warming to under 1.5°C as compared to pre-industrial times.” Why is this 1.5°C objective important as opposed to earlier under 2°C target? Also, suggest the possible pathways to attain the 1.5°C target. (250 words)

Model Answer:


  • Why in news?
  • Importance of 1.5°C objective
  • Pathways to attain the 1.5°C target
  • Conclusion

Why in news?

Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a keenly awaited “special report” on the actions the world needs to take to prevent global average temperatures from rising beyond 1.5°C as compared to pre-industrial times.

Importance of 1.5°C objective

  • The objective to limit rising global average temperatures to within 2°C from pre-industrial times, was chosen because science seemed to suggest that the impacts of climate change could be “irreversible” and “catastrophic” if the rise in temperature was allowed to go beyond the 2°C ceiling.
  • But the IPCC report has found this threshold to be inadequate. A more than 1.5°C warming will be precarious, and a 2°C rise would be catastrophic, the report warns. The world, already 1°C hotter than what it was 150 years ago, could witness greater frequency of droughts and floods, more intense tropical cyclones and increased ocean acidification and salinity if the planet heats by a further 0.5°C. That could happen anytime between 2030 and 2050, the report cautions.
  • A number of small island states and the least developed nations, which are likely to suffer the worst consequences of climate change, asked that the goal should be to restrict the temperature rise to even less — to within 1.5°C from pre-industrial times. This was because the predicted impact if the world became warmer by 2°C could potentially threaten the very existence of some of these states.
  • A number of scientific papers in recent times have projected what could be expected in the 1.5°C scenario. Some examples –
  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C could prevent around 3.3 million cases of dengue every year in Latin America and the Caribbean alone.
  • As per a World Bank report on Climate Change and Health, an additional 150 million people could be at risk from malaria if the temperature was allowed to increase beyond 2°C.
  • World could have 25 million fewer undernourished people by the end of the century, if the 1.5°C goal was achieved.
  • About 350 million additional people could be exposed to deadly heat waves if the warming increased to 2°C as compared to 1.5°C.
  • The 1.5°C could prevent 153 million premature deaths due to air pollution by 2100, as compared to the 2°C scenario.
  • More than 90% of the world’s population could see the economic damage as a result of climate change being reduced in the 1.5°C scenario. The world could be 3% wealthier by 2100 in a 1.5°C scenario compared to a 2°C scenario.
  • A UNDP report in 2016 claimed that a 1.5°C strategy could create double the number of jobs in the energy sector by 2050.
  • Also, compared to the 1.5°C scenario, extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and heat waves are likely to become more severe and frequent, and freshwater supply could fall sharply, in a 2°C world.

Pathways to attain the 1.5°C target

  • According to the special report, achieving these cuts requires rapid and “far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems”. It will require political action and significant scale-up of investment, on a wide portfolio of mitigation options across sectors.
  • A much sharper and quicker emission cuts is required by big emitters like China, the US, the European Union and India, than what these countries currently plan to do. However, their publicly declared planned actions currently are not big enough to achieve even the 2°C target.
  • The electricity/energy sector will have to generally meet demand with lower energy use—including through enhanced energy efficiency—and show faster electrification of end use energy. Average annual investment in low-carbon energy technologies and energy efficiency needs to scale up by roughly a factor of five between 2015 and 2050.
  • The IPCC notes that political, economic, social and technical feasibility of solar energy, wind energy and electricity storage technologies has improved substantially over the ­­past few years, signalling a potential system transition in electricity generation.
  • Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, stays in the atmosphere for 100-150 years. So if all greenhouse gas emissions were to somehow miraculously stop all of a sudden, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would remain at the current levels for many years to come. That is why there is a significant interest these days in technologies that can physically remove the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and store it somewhere. No such technology exists yet, but several possibilities are being explored.
  • According to IPCC, Real emission reductions can be achieved through a combination of new and existing technologies and practices, including electrification, hydrogen, sustainable bio-based feedstocks, product substitution, and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). It also notes that these options are technically proven but their deployment may be limited by economic, financial, human resource and institutional constraints.
  • The IPCC has called for up-scaling low-carbon technologies and increased energy efficiency. But such interventions will not be enough and investments will have to move towards afforestation and technology-centred approaches, including ones that involve sucking the greenhouse gas before it reaches the atmosphere.
  • The imperative of making communities resilient in the face of global warming and the focus on novel technologies require that urgency is accorded to shoring up climate finances. As of December 2017, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) — the main instrument of fulfilling the developed countries’ collective promise of putting $100 billion annually into the hat by 2020 — had disbursed less than 10 per cent of its commitment.


The world is not even on course to meet the comparatively conservative demands of a 2°C-rise-in-temperature scenario. A 1.5°C target demanded much deeper emission cuts from the big emitters, which in turn required massive deployment of financial and technological resources, something many of these countries were reluctant to do. The Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are insufficient to meet these demands either.

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