By Jessica Warren
Climate Change, that dreaded phrase. We hear it again and again under a variety of contexts; the non-believers, those that question why it’s so cold if we’re experiencing “global warming”, and those sit in a global conference, failing to make decisions.
Climate Change has been disputed since the words started flying around in the 60s and 70s, but it has moved from the sole concerns of the ‘hippies’ to the whole of society. There is strong evidence from a variety of sources as to the existence of climate change in the last 20,000 years since the ending of the Pleistocene ice age. After the Pleistocene ice age, there was a period called pre-Boreal, whereby the climate began to warm up and this trend has continued since then. There have been some minor fluctuations such as the ‘Little ice age’ from the mid-16th century to the 1800s. However, average global temperate has been rising, and carbon levels have only gone up.
With climate change well and firmly established, its begs the question as to why we aren’t doing more to reverse or halt the rising CO2 levels. First identified as an issue in 1969, when US President Nixon pushed NATO to research environmental topics. However, it wasn’t until 1987, with the Montreal Protocol that the world’s political powers proved they could coordinate their actions to deal with pollution of the atmosphere.
Many conferences have been and gone, the Earth Summit in 1992, the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the Copenhagen conference in 2009, the South Africa Conference in 2011 and Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015. The Paris conference, being the most recent was the first pact to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions. The agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary, and out of the 195 Parties that signed the Agreement, 170 Parties had ratified as of 16 November 2017. Whilst the US had ratified under the presidency of Obama, President Trump plans on withdrawing the country from the agreement. This process would take a few years anyway, so before we all start worrying that one of the biggest polluters in the world is going to withdraw from a climate change agreement, we should consider how long the current POTUS will be in power.
The Paris agreement saw measures including the aim to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and then achieve a balance between greenhouse gas sources and sinks within the second half of this century. When we unpick this aim, there a few key things to pull out; the aim to peak greenhouse emissions as soon as possible does not give a clear time frame. Furthermore, the provided time frame for balancing sources and sinks within the ‘second half of this century’ is abysmal. Who do we think we are as the human race, that we are only going to sort things out in the latter half of this century, that is, no real changes will be seen in the next 32 years.
The agreement also saw the pledge to keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C. Again, the flimsy wording illustrates not only a lack lustre approach to combating climate change, but the difficulty in collaborating on a global scale, particularly when the decisions being made do not seem to be in the immediate interest of many large polluting countries.
More needs to be done to help combat climate change before it’s too late, international bureaucracy is holding us back in the bid to save the planet. If we are to reduce CO2 emissions drastically, and reverse this self-created mess before it’s too late, then more radical action is needed.