Editorial

UN Climate Action Summit crucial to our survival

Friday, September 20, 2019

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Given recent developments, even the most ardent sceptic would admit that it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the impact of climate change on the Earth.

Tropical storms are growing in strength and ferocity, as we saw just three weeks ago when Hurricane Dorian shattered almost everything in its path on two of the 700 islands that make up The Bahamas. At the same time, severe drought and high temperatures are having debilitating effects on human existence.

This week, scientists released two new climate models showing that the Earth's surface is being warmed more quickly than previously understood. According to the models, which are set to replace those used in current United Nations (UN) projections, the reason for this development is the burning of fossil fuels.

The scientists tell us that if carbon emissions continue unabated, average temperatures could rise 7.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100. They also said that the new calculations suggest that the Paris Agreement goals of capping global warming at well below two degrees, and 1.5C if possible, will be challenging at best.

“With our two models, we see that the scenario known as SSP1 2.6 — which normally allows us to stay under 2C — doesn't quite get us there,” Mr Olivier Boucher, head of the Institute Pierre Simon Laplace Climate Modelling Centre in Paris, is reported as saying by the French news service Agence France Presse.

The news agency also said it obtained a draft Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change special report on oceans and Earth's frozen zones which states that a third to 99 per cent of top-layer permafrost could melt by 2100 if carbon pollution is not abated, releasing billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the air.

Despite the strong political resistance and institutional inertia to the reality of climate change, responsible nations need to work hard at cutting global CO2 emissions to net zero. Activities such as restoring forests and wetlands will help a great deal, so too will converting energy usage to renewable sources, as much as is possible.

Like UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, we are encouraged by growing societal awareness to the effects of global warming. Indeed, on Sunday this week, a CBS News poll showed that 69 per cent of Americans want the next United States president to take action on this issue, while 53 per cent are of the view that such action is needed “right now”. This despite the strident position taken by President Donald Trump against efforts to reduce global warming.

Mr Guterres has expressed hope that public pressure will compel governments to take much stronger action in regard to reducing the effects of climate change. That, we expect, will not be easy in jurisdictions such as the USA, China and Japan where, as we stated, there is strong political pushback.

That, though, should not prevent those of us who know better from trying to sway those regimes while we all play our role in reducing our carbon footprints.

This is not something that we can opt not to do; it is necessary for our survival and that of the generations to follow.

The decisions taken at next week's UN Climate Action Summit in New York, therefore, will be crucial.


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