Editorial

UN climate change report is final warning

Sunday, October 14, 2018

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Over many years, there have been numerous reports, scientific articles and books warning of the catastrophic results of unchecked climate change. Some have chosen to disregard these warnings, others have felt that nothing can be done to ameliorate the process, and yet others have disputed the evidence.

Put bluntly, the just-issued report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the final warning to mankind to immediately take collective action to save the planet.

Established in 1988, the IPCC is a United Nations body comprising global experts whose objective is to provide-politically impartial, objective, empirically based scientific view of climate change and its multi-faceted impacts.

The IPCC reports support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the main international treaty on climate change whose objective is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human-induced interference with the climate system.

The October 2018 IPCC report, which is the work of 91 experts from 40 countries, will form the scientific basis for the discussions at the Katowice Climate Change Conference scheduled for December to review the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Paris Accord in December 2015 agreed on the target of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels”.

The central conclusion of the report is that the planet is already experiencing the consequences of 1C of global warming through more extreme weather events, increasing frequency of natural disasters and diminishing Arctic Sea ice, among other changes.

The main recommendation is that every effort needs to be made, starting now, to limit global warming to 1.5C compared to 2C, or more. Limiting global warming to 1.5C would require “rapid and far-reaching” changes in use of land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would have to be reduced by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030.

Ironically, despite the accumulated scientific evidence, some countries continue to move in the wrong direction, notably the United States, which is dismantling measures to restrain emissions, and China, which is not reducing emissions.

Indeed, emissions are forecast to increase in 2018 at their fastest rate in seven years. This is not a surprise because coal-burning plants are increasing in number and scale.

The dictum that those who cannot hear will feel is true for most individuals, but it is even truer for countries and the global community. It is difficult to grasp how a threat of extinction to mankind cannot get the world community to act with common sense.

We here in the small island developing states in the tropics are the most vulnerable to climate change and therefore have a clear vested interest. As we in the Caribbean did at the Paris meeting, we must push the international community to take the requisite policy actions.

The industrialised countries, which are the main source of global warming, should also fund international facilities which provide grants to developing countries to assist them in coping with climate change.

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