The urgency of meeting the Paris climate agreement goals

Friday, January 19, 2018

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There is cause for great concern in a recent draft United Nations report that the Paris agreement cap on global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century is unlikely to be realised, unless the world acts now to cut carbon pollution and energy demand.

According to the report which, we are told, was prepared by hundreds of scientists, “There is a very high risk that under current emissions trajectories, and current national pledges, global warming will exceed 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

The scientists have stated that, on current trends, the Earth's thermometer will cross that threshold in the 2040s and the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for that outcome will have been released within 10 to 15 years.

We are further informed that recent scientific studies have concluded that, under any scenario, there is no model that projects a 66 per cent or better chance of holding global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

One of the most alarming facts associated with this report, certainly for us here in the Caribbean, is that the Earth, with only a single degree Celsius of warming so far, is already experiencing significant increases in climate impacts such as “deadly droughts, erratic rainfall, and storm surges engorged by rising seas”.

Scientists and other experts have already forecast that the rise in sea level around the world will be as much as two metres more than the 3.2 millimetres per year it is now.

That, we are told, could mean the disappearance of entire stretches of coastal lands. Already, we here in Jamaica are seeing evidence of that erosion, specifically at Hellshire beach in St Catherine and Treasure Beach in St Elizabeth.

How we respond to that reality is very important because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported that constant scientific study of the Arctic region is showing that the environmental system there has reached a “new normal, characterised by long-term losses in the extent and thickness of the sea ice cover, the extent and duration of the winter snow cover and the mass of ice in the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic glaciers”.

Indeed, last December the NOAA's Arctic Research Programme director, Mr Jeremy Mathis, is reported as telling a news conference that, “The Arctic is going through the most unprecedented transition in human history,” as observations that year “confirm that the Arctic shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state it was in just a decade ago.”

The projected rise in the sea level is indeed a frightening prospect for a region such as ours in which many cities and towns sit on coastal lands which are also occupied by the bulk of our tourism industry, not to mention seaports and airports.

Meeting the pledges of the climate treaty agreed to by 197 countries in Paris is therefore very important to the Caribbean and, indeed, the world in general.

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