Mankind has the potential to make of Earth a virtually inhospitable place. 50 animals and plants have already disappeared thanks to climate change and 1274 were listed as critically endangered by it as of March, 2016. The trees in the Andean region are trying to reach higher places to find cooler areas where they can exist -and the millenary trees in Tasmania’s Gondwana Forest have been turned to ashes by bushfires –once again- caused by climate change (Richmond Vale, 2016). China is buying clean air because of the perpetual polluted fog over its cities and flashfloods, such as those in Houston, are becoming increasingly common. In other parts of the world, however, lakes are drying up and water is scarce. It is safe to say that climate actions until now have not been very effective.
According to this article on the UN’s Chronicle, it took the global community seven years to implement the Kyoto Protocol, which is often called the most influential of climate actions so far. By signing it, industrialized countries were pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5% between 2008 and 2012. However, global emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, have risen by 50% since 1990. Furthermore, emissions have increased more quickly in the last decade than they did in the three previous ones, crossing the 400 ppm mark in 2015. Also in 2015, the global surface temperature crossed the 1ºC mark over pre-industrial levels.
Urgent and significant climate actions are needed before it becomes a case of too little, too late. Climate change is offsetting ecosystems, mutilating biodiversity and setting the stage for a planet that, in the future, will not sustain life as it is known today. A global warming of 2ºC is the absolute maximum human race can withstand without a humanitarian crisis like mankind has never seen before. In a business-as usual mindset, the warming could be of over 3ºC, which would have catastrophic effects. However, climate actions are not necessary only to stop temperatures from reaching the top limit, but to curb it now.
Some coastal towns in the Nigerian state of Akwa Ibom are already relocating due to extreme floods and sea level rise. In other parts of the world, extreme temperatures are stopping workers from fulfilling their tasks in arid countries. In 2003, 35,000 people died due to heat stress caused by a heatwave that covered the entirety of Europe. France suffered the bulk of the losses, with 14,802 deaths. Sadly, this was not an isolated case and 700 more people died in 2015 because of another heatwave. It is alarming to think that the temperatures reached during heatwaves will be the norm during summer if warming goes on.
But the future is not entirely bleak. Strategic and holistic climate actions are set to take place within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically Global Goal 13, which is cited below:
GLOBAL GOAL 13: URGENT CLIMATE ACTIONS TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS IMPACTS
- Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
- Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.
- Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.
Global Goal 13 also seeks the acknowledgement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change. Furthermore, Global Goal 13 provides two guidelines regarding the climate actions and policies that must be designed and implemented by all countries in order to diminish the current effects of climate change and prevent further ones.
- Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible.
- Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and Small Island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities.
The urgency of effective and sustainable climate actions cannot be stressed enough. Most of all, a global conscience that promotes the use of cleaner ways of energy and a cleaner way of living must be promoted. After all, “emissions anywhere affect people everywhere” (UN, 2015). The time of taking climate actions is now, not tomorrow or after another climate change summit. The global scientific community agrees on the fact that taking longer to implement climate-policies at a national and international level will require more drastic measures in the future. So let’s get moving.