Our planet is suffering from many environmental challenges, from increasing global temperatures to rising sea levels to massive extinctions of animal populations. And, we are already experiencing the huge impacts of these. Many organizations and advocates have always pushed for eco-friendly solutions to help us address these concerns, especially now that climate change is threatening every living organism and ecosystem on our planet.
Are Global Efforts to Combat Climate Change Enough?
One of the biggest accords to address the drastic impacts of climate change was the Paris Agreement in 2015, where 196 countries committed to taking steps to limit the increase in global average temperature this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels. They agreed on limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Every country was tasked to submit its national plan, specify pathways by which it aims to meet these plans, and set targets for emissions reductions.
However, reports since the agreement took place show that we are nowhere near achieving our goals. According to National Geographic, an American pay television network and flagship channel that is owned by National Geographic Partners, global carbon emissions increased by 1.7% in 2017 and increased by 2.7% in 2018. Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, stated that few major emitters are taking efforts to keep warming to 1.5 Celsius.
“However, if all governments meet their Paris Agreement target, we calculate the world would still see 3 C of warming, but that warming is likely to be even higher given most are not taking enough action to meet their targets. We still have a long way to go,” he said.
The UN Environment Program (UNEP) 2019 Emissions Gap report revealed that at the current rate of global carbon emissions, temperatures are expected to rise by 3.2 degrees Celsius by 2100. To counter these changes, UNEP suggested that countries must raise their commitment level to five times the current rates outlined in the Paris accords, meaning global greenhouse gas emissions must fall at least 7.6% every year to remove 32 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
While some member countries are projected to meet the commitments they made, some drivers of these gas emissions like economic growth are increasing at unprecedented speed. According to CNN, an American news-based pay television channel owned by AT&T's WarnerMedia, today’s economic growth is substantially higher than what was initially expected when the Paris Agreement was created. Aside from that, population growth has "more than outweighed good progress made on climate action.”
These countries' efforts may just be in vain due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Global Efforts to Fight Climate Change is Affected
By this time, COVID-19 has rapidly spread in many parts of the world, infected more than one million people, and killed thousands. While many experts have been focused on how the world would cope with the pandemic, a lot of scientists are worried about how this would affect their efforts to mitigate climate change. Many countries implemented tougher travel restrictions which have forced several climate change meetings to be postponed.
According to Climate Change News, an online site that covers climate change news, analysis, commentary, video, and podcasts focused on developments in global climate politics, the spread of coronavirus has disrupted climate and biodiversity meetings ahead of two critical UN summits seeking to limit warming and to halt extinctions of plants and wildlife. Recently, an intergovernmental conference aiming to establish a global ocean treaty to protect marine biodiversity in the high seas was also postponed. It is the latest of a series of global meetings to be affected by the virus. The crisis has also forced the UN Climate Change to cancel all physical meetings to its headquarters in Bonn, Germany, or elsewhere in the world until the end of April.
Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of UN Climate Change, said that the decision to suspend meetings until the end of April acknowledged “the increasing challenges posed by travel restrictions and quarantine measures that some countries have imposed on travelers from Germany.”
Aside from the postponements and cancellations of many climate talks, new climate policy is also “at risk of stalling on a national level.” This is after the UK announced that it won’t be putting the environment at the center of its budge and Spain halted all legislative activity for climate change for at least two weeks and declared a state of emergency. Recent news also showed that the pandemic is likely to delay European wind projects. While Giles Dixon, CEO of WindEurope, stated that it is still too early to know the impacts on production and revenues in Europe’s offshore and onshore wind sectors. He also warned that developers could well face financial penalties from project delays.
According to Carbon Brief, a UK-based website designed to improve the understanding of climate change, both in terms of the science and the policy response, the pandemic has forced the world’s largest Arctic expedition to cancel a series of research flights. For instance, flights that were supposed to happen in Svalbard, a group of islands far north of mainland Norway, have been canceled after one participant tested positive for the virus while still in Germany.
At the same time, NASA forced to cancel climate change missions due to the virus. The organization decided to delay two airborne missions that study Earth’s climate and the effects of climate change and one tasked with understanding extreme weather because of the virus’s “potential impact on travel during the next few weeks.”
The pandemic also poses serious and long-term threats to climate change. For instance, experts said that it’s going to be difficult for companies to secure the financing necessary to move ahead with any pending solar, wind, and battery projects if capital markets lock up. Renewable projects overseas slowed down as well because Chinese companies, which produce a huge share of the world’s solar panels, wind turbines, and lithium-ion batteries, are grappling with supply issues and declines in production and shipments.
According to MIT Technology Review, a world-renowned, independent media company, the pandemic would also make climate change talks less of a priority. Amid an economic downturn and public health crisis, many governments are more focused on immediate health concerns and economic issues. The longer-term dangers of climate change would take a back seat.