Last week, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2021 Report, prepared by 234 scientists from 66 countries, was released after being approved by 195-member governments of the IPCC. Valerie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of IPCC’s Working Group-I, said, “We have the clearest picture of how the Earth’s climate functions, and how human activities affect it. We know, better than ever, how the climate has changed in the past, how it is changing now, and how it will change in the future.”
The reports in the newspapers of widespread forest fires burning millions of acres in the United States, Siberia in Russia, Turkey, Greece and Algeria; devastating and deadly flooding in Germany, Belgium, Japan and China – and our own Guyana – plus extreme temperatures from the US/Canada to Finland should be a “lived experience” tip-off of the Report’s findings. The latter insists that these are all a consequence of the rise in global temperatures caused by our human activities.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the IPCC report “is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells sounded by the scientists are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable”.
According to the IPCC, there is an imminent risk of reaching or crossing the 2015 Paris Agreement’s internationally-agreed temperature rise threshold of 1.5 degrees between 2021 and 2040, and most probably in the early 2030s. The world will probably reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming within just the next two decades, unless drastic actions are taken right now.
The average global temperature has already risen by 1.2° Celsius compared to the baseline pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels. If high emissions of greenhouse gases are unmitigated, the Report predicts, the world may warm by up to 5.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, with catastrophic consequences for humanity and planet Earth. Even if emissions are stabilised, unfortunately, the climate changes we have witnessed are already with us, and we will now have to live with their consequences henceforth.
But all is not lost as far as the situation of getting worse, and the IPCC scientists have once again, as in 2015, outlined what has to be done. The major action that has to be taken is to reduce the emissions of Carbon Dioxide (XO2) and other greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and water vapour. The focus has been on CO2, especially as it is released from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum products and natural gas. The later process has been the driver to the Industrial Revolution, and remains the major source of energy to drive the factories that produce the goods that presently sustain life on our planet. Unless we want to revert to pre-industrial living conditions – which has been universally rejected – the only answer is to create new sources of energy that do not release CO2.
There will have to be a simultaneous reduction of fossil fuels as a source of energy, especially by the “developed countries” responsible for past and present emissions. The replacement for the fossil fuels has been dubbed “renewables”: solar, hydro, geo, wind and hydrogen as energy sources. Carbon capture and storage will now have to become part of our arsenal of climate change mitigating strategies, and this is where, as VP Jagdeo has been pointing out for over a decade, Guyana is uniquely poised to benefit from this shift.
Forests are the largest carbon sinks apart from the oceans, and as we discovered with our agreement with Norway a decade ago, the countries that still have to emit greenhouse gases for whatever reason can participate in a carbon market. Countries like Guyana that sequester carbon by not cutting down their forests can be compensated by emitters as offsets. Our abundant rivers and waterfalls can provide hydro-power, as with AFHEP, which the govt is reviving, while our abundant sunshine and winds will also produce our energy from these renewables.
Our oil funds can be used to mitigate the effects of climate change like rising seas and floods.