If your family home is on fire, do you sit around arguing who lit the fire or do you put out the fire? The answer seems obvious, doesn’t it? If you don’t first put out the fire, you won’t have a house to live in, much less assign blame over. And if the situation is that all of your family members – save for the seven in space – are trapped in the house, many will be killed if you fail to act.
This analogy is very much the case when it comes to the world’s handling of the issue of climate change, which since the adoption and implementation, in 1987, of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the landmark multilateral environmental agreement that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS) has seen 30-plus years of much talk and little action. The climate change our world is undergoing has deteriorated into a climate emergency, with wildfires, heatwaves, droughts and storms of ever-increasing intensity wracking the planet. Much of our attention and energies have been devoted to determining who caused the problem and for how much of the problem each State is responsible instead of the problem itself and actually solving it. The truth is mankind collectively created the climate change that we see today, by polluting Earth, our collective home.
Climate scientists have shown that humans are responsible for virtually all global heating over the last 200 years. Human activities, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels, are causing greenhouse gases that are warming the world faster than at any other time in at least the last two thousand years.
The average temperature of the Earth’s surface is now about 1.1°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s (before the Industrial Revolution) and warmer than at any other time in the last 100,000 years. The last decade (2011-2020) was the warmest on record, and each of the last four decades has been warmer than any previous decade since 1850. The consequences of climate change now include intense droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, rising sea levels, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms, and declining biodiversity.
In Paris, in 2015, in a much-delayed attempt to finally comprehensively address the issue, 196 parties agreed to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and to pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”.
The ink had barely dried on the Paris Agreement when many countries, including the United States and other developed countries, began to baulk at what they had committed themselves to, with several effectively backtracking. And so the chasm between the developed world and the developing world over tackling climate change further widened, particularly over the failure of the former to provide US$100 billion per year as promised for climate mitigation efforts to the latter.
Throughout the implementation of the Montreal Protocol, which was universally ratified and almost 98 per cent achieved , the United Nations Environment Programme noted, “developing countries have demonstrated that, with the right kind of assistance, they are willing, ready, and able to be full partners in global efforts to protect the environment”.
As the 28th edition of the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opens today in Dubai, the global body is calling on all parties to accelerate global climate action.
It said “as the climate crisis worsens around the world, COP28 must be a decisive moment to act on climate commitments and limit global warming to 1.5°C”.
Can we, humanity, please take action to realise the goal of the UNFCCC to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system”, and then apportion blame? Please!