Have you read the poem “My heart’s in the Highlands” by the Scottish poet Robert Burns? Scotland, with its scenic highlands and seascapes, is set to host a critical international event in the coming days. Do you know which event it is?
Climate change poses a threat to wildlife, their habitats, people’s livelihoods, and the very future of our planet. All of us—governments, businesses, and individuals—can take action to help protect the Earth. Local actions can have far-reaching global consequences. So, it is vital that the countries of the world work together to tackle climate change.
In 1992, several countries joined an international treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC enables countries to work together to limit average global temperature increases and cope with the impacts of climate change. Nearly every year, leaders from member countries meet at an event called the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (or COP for short) to set targets with the goal of reducing greenhouse gases and protecting the planet.
The twenty-sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (or COP26) will be held from 31 October to 12 November this year at Glasgow, Scotland. Click here to see how you can get your voice heard at COP26. In this edition of Nature Nuggets, let’s understand some of the goals of COP26 and what they could mean for our planet’s future.
Limiting global warming
At COP21 in Paris in 2015, a landmark agreement called the Paris Agreement was reached. Several countries agreed to begin efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C. To limit global warming, we need to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050. This means that countries must stop emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such that, by 2050, any carbon emissions will be balanced by removing carbon dioxide from the air.
Under the Paris Agreement, many countries set national targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, global carbon dioxide emissions continued to rise after 2015. Scientists estimate that to limit global warming to 1.5°C, we must reduce emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and from there to ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050. New targets are expected to be set by countries at the upcoming COP26, making it a critically important event.
Helping nations affected by climate change
Although climate change affects us all in the long term, it does not yet affect everyone equally. A recent report says the richest 1% of the world population has contributed more than double the emissions caused by the poorest half of the world. In contrast, countries that have overall done the least to cause climate change are generally the ones who are impacted the most. Watch this video to learn more.
At COP15 at Copenhagen in 2009, many richer developed countries committed to providing financial support to poorer or less developed countries. Such support would help vulnerable nations to develop while reducing emissions and adapting to a warmer world. Unfortunately, this commitment has not been met entirely. At COP26 this year, world leaders will evaluate how this financial commitment can be met.
Common Name: Atlantic Puffin
Scientific Name: Fratercula arctica
A black top half, white cheeks and belly, and orange webbed feet! It is no wonder that the Atlantic puffin is called the ‘clown of the coast’! The puffin’s thick bill is dark or grey in the winter but turns multicoloured in the summer months, which has earned it another name—‘sea parrot’.
The Atlantic puffin is found only along the coasts of the North Atlantic Ocean, ranging from the eastern coasts of the USA and Canada to western Europe and northern Russia.
Amazingly, puffins spend most of the year out at sea. When not in the air, they rest silently on the waves. They return to land during the breeding season. They nest in burrows on grassy seaside cliffs and rocky islands, forming huge breeding colonies called puffinries. Puffin couples often pair for life and may nest at the same burrow year after year. Watch this video of how puffins pick a spot to call home. Each puffin pair produces just a single egg!
Puffins are excellent swimmers and dive under the water’s surface to catch small fish. Watch this video of a puffin’s perilous fishing expedition.
Rising ocean temperatures have affected the numbers and distribution of the fish on which puffins feed, leading to a decline in puffin numbers. As only a few places have breeding puffin populations, environmental changes pose a particular threat to these fascinating birds.
Puffins are a birdwatcher’s favourite around the Scottish coast. What do you think these birds might ask of world leaders at Glasgow’s COP26?
Time to check your Nature Quotient!
Which of these is another word for a puffin chick?
Answer to be revealed in our next edition!
Previous edition answer: The correct answer is c.! The Sentinelese are a tribe that lives on North Sentinel Island, one of the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. They reject all contact with outsiders, making them possibly the most isolated tribe in the world.
Congratulations to everyone who guessed it right!
For this festive season, WWF India’s Education Ambassador and the Chess Grandmaster Mr. Viswanathan Anand has promised to gift his loved ones goodness that makes them feel all warm inside. This will be a present for the planet too!
Think up different kinds of goodness that you could gift your loved ones. And have a happy, green Diwali!
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