In the last month, a virtual meeting, called Leaders Summit on Climate, was held among the world’s seventeen largest economies and greenhouse gas emitters. Such a meeting is significant in the sense that the Paris Climate Deal, which was signed by a considerable number of countries, did not see its expected light. Moreover, increased global warming, along with its disastrous impacts across countries, is a cause for global concern. Under such a context, there is no doubt that such a meeting bears some significance. Even though there is no concrete and immediate outcome of the meeting, it reflects a growing interest of the world leaders in climate change and efforts for addressing diverse manmade causes of global warming and mitigating its disastrous effects across countries.
Of course, climate change, or global warming, has become one of the most significant threats to the world for the last few decades. But the change is mostly manmade rather than natural. According to an assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), human emissions and activities have caused around 100 percent of the warming observed since 1950. In its 2013 fifth assessment report, the IPCC stated for policymakers that it is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by human activity. This report alternatively indicates that more than half of modern global warming is due to human activity, meaning that addressing human activities can prevent global warming.
The causes and effects of climate change are now clear. As it appears, climate change is the result of diverse human activities including the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. These are caused by the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), deforestation, extensive agricultural activities and some other reasons. As a result of these, the ozone layer is depleted and increased temperature is melting down ice rapidly than ever and the sea level is rising. If the current rate continues, as is predicted, the sea level will rise to a certain extent after a few decades, meaning that a considerable portion of the world, especially the lower areas, will be inundated. Of course, global warming and the resultant rise of sea level will bring about many other negative consequences to flora and fauna in many areas of the world.
It is undeniable that climate change affects not only low-lying areas but also other areas. Moreover, global warming has already increased droughts in many countries around the world. As it appears, it is increasing the number of storms and hurricanes in the United States, typhoons in Japan and heatwaves and droughts in different areas including Asia and changing ecosystems in many parts of the world. Also, climate change can increase the amount of torrential water in many countries. These are clearly indicative of the disastrous effects of climate change across countries and the responsible roles to be played to a varying degree to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and mitigate effects.
Of course, all countries are not similarly responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases or climate change. In most cases, industrialist countries are responsible. In fact, industrial countries have built their economies on burning fossil fuels to provide electricity and transport and develop industries. According to 2011 data compiled by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the top 10 emitters of carbon dioxide still contribute to around 65 percent of the emissions in the world. But, of course, a considerable number of less developed and developing countries are also increasingly causing global warming in recent decades. This is mainly because many developing and less developed countries are moving to rapid industrialization mostly in an unplanned manner.
It is undeniable that international and national efforts are enormous for dealing with the causes of climate change and its effects across the world. The UN Convention on Climate Change and the 2015 Paris Climate Deal are to be specially noted. The UN convention, which was adopted in 1992 and signed by 195 countries, puts emphasis on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to climate change, reporting to national emissions and financing of climate action in developing countries. In the 2015 Paris agreement, which is also rendered as the first genuine global effort, parties signed agreed to reduce emissions. It specifically puts emphasis on the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. Moreover, in the recent most Leaders Summit on Climate, the United States and other countries announced ambitious new climate targets ensuring that nations accounting for half of the world’s economy have now committed to the emission reductions needed globally to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C within reach.
But the point is whether such efforts are actually able to make real changes in the reduction of carbon emission on the grounds. Of course, the current trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions does not appear to be consistent with limiting global warming to below 1.5 or 2°C, even though the limit being economically beneficial globally. To date, no country has reduced carbon emission as desire, even if the world is now more concerned about climate change and its overall effects than ever and appears to be are more cooperative on these and different countries including industrialist and developing countries are making some significant national-level efforts including national policy and programmatic efforts. Also, the global climate funds, which are contributed by industrialist countries, are not appropriately distributed to mitigate the effects of global warming.
Under such circumstances, there is no doubt that some actual efforts, instead of pledges, are needed to prevent climate change and protect from its disastrous effects. Along with international efforts, effective national measures are important in this respect. Of course, strengthened roles of the conference of the parties, which is the decision-making body of the international agreement (convention) on climate change and at which all states that are parties to the convention are represented, are undoubtedly significant for effectively dealing with the global climate change. Besides, emphasis should be given to the mitigation of climate change effects, along with the reduction of emission of greenhouse gases across the world. But deserved emphasis should be given on the mitigation of the effects of climate change in those countries that can be more affected.
Of course, political leaders need to play important roles in making any real change. In this respect, there is no doubt that the leaders of industrialist countries need to play more roles since the responsibility of climate change mostly goes to such countries. Since a significant number of developing and less developed countries are also contributing to climate change, leaders of such countries need to play increasing roles to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. In this respect, strong political commitment, instead of a mere pledge, is important. But the reflection of commitment is also undeniable for making some real changes.