As world leaders look ahead to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow at the end of the year, scientists have declared that with concerted focus and political will, averting climate disaster is still possible, giving decisions taken this year preeminent importance in the battle for the future of the planet.
Despite the previous year’s unfortunate events, including record-breaking heat waves, unprecedented fires, and a devastating hurricane season, 2021 has the potential to be less grim and damaging for the climate – assuming the political will to take difficult but necessary decisions. Key to this belief is the fact that recent research shows that the probability of stopping global warming and climate change is highly likely, granted the proposed climate agendas follow through. According to a new report by the International Panel on Climate Change, if all the greenhouse gas emissions go to zero, as proposed by the participating countries, the vicious cycle of warming temperatures, melting ice, wildfires, and rising sea levels would likely be broken. The previous claim that greenhouse gas concentration would continuously remain in the Earth’s atmosphere even after the new CO2 production would end was overturned by leading climate scientists in what was called a “game-changing new scientific understanding” by Covering Climate Now, a collaboration of publications reporting on the subject.
The new thinking, brought by Michael Mann, a geophysicist and professor at Penn State University in the USA, challenges the long-held theory that a lag effect would keep greenhouse gases within the planet’s atmosphere and trap the heat. If humans “stop emitting carbon right now … the oceans start to take up carbon more rapidly,” says Mann. Thus, if carbon emissions were reduced or halted altogether, climate change would stop relatively quickly, in an amazing three to five years, according to the professor.
Ambitious plans were set by the world’s prominent leaders in light of new scientific evidence. The President of China, Xi Jinping, announced at the UN General Assembly in September that China aims to go carbon neutral by 2060. The commitment came as a shock to many environmentalists since cutting carbon pollution is one of the most effective, albeit expensive, solutions to global warming any country could set to accomplish. China’s growing economy brings about 28% of the world’s carbon emissions and its overall land temperature increase (0.24˚C per decade) surpasses the global rate (0.18˚C per decade). The People’s Republic is not alone. The UK and the European Union made a legally binding net zero commitment in the past two years, along with Japan and South Korea.
The recent inauguration of Joe Biden in the United States brings hope to the carbon emissions cut as well, with his aim to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In the first week of the presidency, Biden signed four executive orders directly related to the fight against climate change and environmental justice. Moreover, John Kerry, the appointed presidential envoy for climate, recently pointed out that the promises given by the countries under the Paris Climate commitment are inadequate to achieve the goal of limiting 1.5˚C global temperature rise. He has also mentioned his approval towards a carbon tax which would limit carbon emissions and pollution in the energy sector. “Well, we could do [the carbon tax]. It is one option of many things we’re going to have to consider and may wind up doing,” said Kerry in an interview.
These new commitments are planned to be discussed in detail at the quinquennial Climate Conference in Glasgow this November. The deal, set at the Paris meeting in 2015, is revealed to be off track with the aim to keep global warming at 1.5˚C by 2033, coming sooner than predicted. Thus, the participating countries have to draft up their exact plans for achieving their ambitious goals, or else, the global temperature is going to climb up to unimaginable numbers while the greenhouse gas concentrations rise.
Although climate change seems to be only accelerating at present, beating all the temperature records of the past November, there is still hope for maintaining the 1.5˚C limit and halve the total global emissions by 2030. Promises have to be kept, ambitious projects put to motion, and goals achieved. The stakes are high for 2021 to be the “make or break” year to fight global warming, as pointed out by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and hopefully, it will not disappoint. With the COVID-19 pandemic still surging through the many nations around the world, the new policies could be a glimmer of hope for humanity’s bright future.
For Times Media Mexico – Rixlie Fozilova in Michigan