The past July hit the record of being the hottest month in the world. According to the CBC News article “July was the warmest month on record for most of the Maritimes” by Ryan Snoddon, the experts calculated the average temperature for the globe in July to be about 1.5 C° above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. July also had the hottest 23 days ever recorded, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, and scientists assert that July was the hottest month ever recorded. Matt McGrath and Mark Poynting on BBC report that scientists agree the extra heat mainly relates to fossil fuel use, some experts even believing July could be the warmest month in the past 120,000 years. Many leaders have raised awareness of the issue, with US President Joe Biden describing climate change as an “existential threat.”
The issue remains crucial for the whole world, as the impact of heat does not only relate to environmental science but also directly impacts human lives across the globe. According to the BBC article “Canada wildfire smoke leaves million under air quality advisor” by Max Matza, Canada has seen its worst wildfire season on record this summer, leaving tens of millions of Americans under air quality advisories and requiring thousands of people to evacuate. There is a debate on whether the increased wildfire breakouts are attributed to climate change. However, Matza on BBC highlighted through a former Canadian firefighter that although fire management is already better than 20 years ago, it is vital to understand all the different factors in the causes of wildfires, most of which are ultimately human. Furthermore, with July being the hottest month ever in history, it seems valid that a correlation exists between climate change and “natural” disasters like wildfires.
The reaction of governments to climate change has been unsatisfactory for many people. On July 31st, the UK government announced that the State will grant hundreds of new licenses for companies to drill for oil and gas offshore in the North Sea, reported by Anna Cooban on CNN. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hoped the plans would provide the UK with domestically sourced energy while it transitions to a net zero economy by 2050, according to Cooban on CNN. He added that all the processes would still apply a “climate compatibility test,” and his government would build new carbon capture and storage sites in the North Sea to reduce carbon emissions. To protest this decision, four climate activists draped Rishi Sunak’s private mansion in black cloth, which is supposed to be the colour of “oil-black fabric,” Martin Goillandeau, Chris Liakos, and Laura Paddison report on CNN. Stanley Johnson – the father of ex-PM Boris Johnson – also criticized the UK Prime Minister, showing concern that the new licenses for drilling in the North Sea could scale back the UK’s green commitments, according to Jon Stone’s article “Stanley Johnson urges Sunak to stick to net zero plans as he praises China on climate policy” on The Independent.
Responding to this criticism, a Downing Street spokesperson said 2030 “remains our commitment” but that it was “right to listen to consumers and businesses so our path to net zero is proportionate and pragmatic,” Stone reports on The Independent. Furthermore, the “climate compatibility test,” which the UK PM said will be used in the process of issuing new licenses, involves comparing the performance of the UK oil and gas industry against the emissions targets set out by the North Sea transition Deal (NSTD) which were agreed to by the sector in 2021, according to the UK government. Moreover, the EU countries, the US, and the UK have enforced the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria, a set of practices to evaluate a company or organization’s environmental impacts. In 2015, world leaders signed the Paris Agreement to put solutions to climate change into practice. It aims to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 C°, or well below 2 C°. World leaders like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US President Joe Biden, and UN chief Antonio Guterres know and suggest that climate change is real. The actions of governments demonstrate that there has been a concrete set of legislation to enforce sustainable policies.
And yet, since 2015, the average temperature has been rising, and every year sets a record for the warmest temperature. Even though the governments have followed the legal practices under the environmental framework, the rising temperature and their constant endeavours to expand on oils and gas make it seem like their actions are insufficient. This report, however, does not aim to provide a detailed critique of the flaws in the governmental efforts. It redirects the attention to the other aspects of climate justice that could be addressed by the international organization to combat the rising temperature more effectively. Examining the economic and global carbon inequality amongst countries could effectively enforce already-existing climate policies, which is not the ultimate solution to climate change but one of the possible methods.
Economists like Lucas Chancel stress the importance of addressing economic inequality in dealing with climate justice. In his article “Global carbon inequality over 1990–2019” in Nature Sustainability Journal, he said economic inequalities and climate change are interrelated as “failure to contain climate change is likely to exacerbate inequalities within and between countries,” and “economic inequalities within countries tend to slow the implementation of climate policies.” Chancel examines the distribution of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between individuals and across the globe to understand the relationship between economic inequality and climate change, but such data is missing. He stresses the importance of establishing these basic facts, as not doing it would jeopardize any efforts towards sustainable lifestyles. Environmental scholars Andrew Fanning and Jason Hickel also said in their article “Compensation for atmospheric appropriation” in Nature Sustainability Journal that scholars have argued that carbon budgets should be shared equitably, as “overshooting countries owe compensation to undershooting countries for atmospheric appropriation and climate-related damages.” They argued that acknowledging equity issues is essential to establishing trust and buy-in to the negotiation process.
These scholars argue that inequality is the main issue with the current climate justice process. Whether it is inequality between or within countries, such problems hinder the smooth enforcement of climate justice. Climate change is an issue that nations must address in their cooperation, and some countries inevitably emit more carbon than others while others do not have enough financial resource to address environment issues. Chancel suggested three major developments in terms of data, methods, and scope in his article. Fanning and Hickel provide their research to indicate how compensation for “atmospheric appropriation” – meaning some nations unfairly produce more carbon than others while holding disproportionate responsibility for climate breakdown – can be quantified, acknowledging that it is beyond the scope of their research to provide a framework for practical implementations. These scholars provided the methods of measuring the gap and inequality, so the policymakers’ jobs would be to utilize the quantified results from these methods to the most effect. They must use the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions and other relevant data to determine how inequality impacts and hinders the enforcement of climate policies in international and domestic settings for the nations. In the end, combatting climate change is about cooperation, and building trust and ensuring that everyone is part of the process is the most crucial aspect, given that we already have a detailed and coherent legal framework that sustainably guides governments and organizations.
Climate change made July 2023 the hottest month ever, and such an incident risked many people’s lives. The governmental action may seem inefficient and require more direct measures to draw the most effective result as temperatures rise. However, it is also crucial to address other aspects that worsen the collective combatting of climate change, which includes resolving the inequality between and within different nations. All nations are involved in combatting climate change, and equitable participation is crucial in the process.
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