Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report highlighting the urgent need to increase efforts in limiting global warming. The world is currently 1°C above pre-industrial levels, and the IPCC stresses the significance of the increase in extreme weather events experienced across the world. The effects of climate change are already hurting millions of lives through devastating hurricanes in the US, record droughts in Cape Town, heat waves in Europe, forest fires in the Arctic, and the shrinking of small island states due to rising sea levels. The report highlights that a failure to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels will only further exacerbate these severe weather events.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is not impossible, “but it will require unprecedented and collective climate action in all areas. There is no time to waste.” Mr Guterres identified the main aspects of society requiring a change, which include key sectors such as land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. He also emphasized the need to end deforestation and plant billions of trees; drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels and phasing out coal by 2050; increase implementation of wind and solar power; and invest in climate-friendly sustainable agriculture.
While the Paris agreement pledges to keep temperatures between 1.5°C and 2°C, the World Meteorological Organization has stated that progress so far has not been good enough to keep temperature rises below even 2°C. The difference in consequences of even half a degree of temperature change could be drastic. At 1.5°C, the global population experiencing difficulty obtaining fresh water could be 50 per cent lower than at 2°C. It is imperative for world leaders to acknowledge the evidence and increase their urgency to uphold global efforts in reducing global warming. However, since President Donald Trump withdrew the US – historically one of the largest contributors to emissions – from the Paris Agreement, meeting global objectives without the full commitment of all nation states becomes more difficult. Jair Bolsonaro, who has won the first round Brazil’s presidential election, has threatened to follow the US and open the Amazon rainforest agribusiness. Changing to a renewable and sustainable society is now more crucial than ever, and with continued political unrest throughout the world, the consequences of inaction threaten our lives, health, and access to food, housing, and water.
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