At COP27 held in Egypt last year, world leaders gathered world leaders to discuss how to tackle the climate crisis through climate mitigation or reducing emissions, and climate adaptation or how to prepare for the impacts in the face of climate-related disasters and record-breaking temperatures we have witnessed recently.
“Loss and damage” is also a vital issue in this gathering, a concept that countries that have contributed the most to climate change with their emissions should pay poorer countries for the suffering it caused them and recover from the losses. Breakthrough in this area will become the litmus test for this year’s climate summit.
António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, gave a stark warning in his opening remarks at the COP27 world leaders’ summit. He said the clock is ticking, and we are losing the fight because “global emissions keep growing, and global temperatures keep rising, and our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. “We are on a highway to climate hell, with our foot still on the accelerator.”
He said many of today’s conflicts are linked to climate chaos. For example, the war in Ukraine has exposed the profound risk of the world’s fossil fuel addiction. The energy crisis should not be an excuse for greenwashing or backsliding. Instead, it should be a reason for urgency, more decisive climate actions, and accountability.
The UN Chief also highlights the need for countries to boost climate adaptation and reinforce our resilience to climate change now and in the future. He said that today around a 3.5billion people live in countries highly vulnerable to climate change. There is a need to increase climate adaptation funding, and half of the climate funding must go to climate adaptation.
The latest UN Report, Emissions Gap Report 2022: The Closing Window, says that “no credible pathway” exists to keep temperature rise below 1.5°C. It finds that the international community failed to achieve the Paris Goal. In strong terms, it declared, “Only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid climate disaster.”
“This report tells us in cold scientific terms what nature has been telling us, all year, through deadly floods, storms and raging fires: we have to stop filling our atmosphere with greenhouse gases and stop doing it fast,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over. Only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster”.
A New York Times article, “Beyond Catastrophe A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View”, thoroughly analyses the world we live in and the achievements and lapses in climate targets and the transition to renewable energy (Beyond Catastrophe, 2022).
Acceding to the reality that we will cross the 1.5°C, it should not cause despair because there are reasons for optimism through climate adaptation and the endless tools and solutions available to the world to cope and adapt to the new environment we are and will be living.
Author Wallace-Wells writes, “For decades, visions of possible climate futures have been anchored by, on the one hand, Pollyanna-like faith that normality would endure, and on the other, millenarian intuitions of an ecological end of days…Neither of those futures looks all that likely now, with the terrifying predictions made improbable by decarbonization and the most hopeful ones practically foreclosed by tragic delay.”
So, what does living in the two-degree hotter world look like? The article states, “There will be extreme weather even more intense and much more frequent. Disruption and upheaval, at some scale, at nearly every level, from the microbial to the geopolitical. Suffering and injustice for hundreds of millions of people because the benefits of industrial activity have accumulated in parts of the world that will also be spared the worst of its consequences.”
One-in-100-year floods will come every year, wildfire risk and smoke will grow, extreme heat events could increase more than three times, India’s heatwave will be 30 times more severe, and almost 100 times as many people will be exposed to dangerous heat.
But we have an endless number of tools to fight and adapt to the crises, the article says. A changing climate will also affect key infrastructure because they are designed for a climate condition that no longer exists. Extreme weather increases weather variability, and roads designed for a particular climate range may fail more quickly. These circumstances add costs to design and retrofit and decrease user reliability.
Building resilience in infrastructure will consist of building defences against flooding — both natural, like mangrove and wetland restoration, and more interventionist, like dikes and levees and sea walls and sea gates.
Stronger housing codes; more resilient building materials and more weather-conscious urban planning; heat-resistant rail lines and asphalt and all other kinds of infrastructure; better forecasting and more universal warning systems; less wasteful water management, including across extensive agricultural regions like the American West; cooling centres and drought-resistant crops and much more effective investments in emergency response for what Juliette Kayyem, a former official at the Department of Homeland Security, calls our new “age of disasters.”
Although we are set to exceed 1.5°C, it should not cause us to abandon emissions reduction goals and policies, but we should make it as fast as possible. Every bit of degree of warming shaved off makes a huge difference.
According to Wallace-Wells, because human activity has caused climate change, humans should also “engineer” their way out.
According to the Economist Article, surpassing 1.5°C should give us a dose of realism. Insisting on admitting that 1.5°C is a lost cause only prolongs the mistakes in Paris, where countries made a “Herculean” goal without any plan for reaching it (The world is missing, 2022). Delegates gathering for the COP27 in Egypt this week will need to be more pragmatic and face up to some hard truths.
So, what can countries do to face the realities of more frequent and intense extreme natural events like storms, droughts, floods, sea-level rise, wildfires, heatwaves, etc.?
The article proposed the following – First, we must invest more in renewable energy and close coal plants. Second, developed countries should support developing countries through technology and finance in transitioning to renewable energy and weaning their reliance on fossil fuels. Third, boost climate adaptation efforts and finance. The article says that natural disasters will become more intense and frequent, and not adapting to them will become a matter of life and death.
Climate change: No ‘credible pathway’ to 1.5C limit, UNEP warns. (2022 October 27). UN News. Retrieved from https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/10/1129912
Beyond Catastrophe A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View. (2022 26 October). The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/10/26/magazine/climate-change-warming-world.html
The world is missing its lofty climate targets. Time for some realism. (2022 3 November). The Economist. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/leaders/2022/11/03/the-world-is-missing-its-lofty-climate-targets-time-for-some-realism
McGrath, M. (2022, 27 October). Climate change: UN warns key warming threshold slipping from sight. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-63407459
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