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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Climate Change | Causes, Effects, Strategies & Efforts

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Climate change is one of the most significant emerging non-traditional security concerns. A report by Nature Climate Change shows that about 85% of the world’s population is already being affected by climate change. It is linked to approximately 300,000 Deaths a year.

This article aims to highlight the two major strategies adopted worldwide to cope with the climate crisis. A chronological overview of the significant global and regional conferences helps to understand the evolution of the climate crisis. It goes from being once considered a non-issue to becoming one of the major threats to human existence.

Causes and Effects:

Climate change is caused by global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions which traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere. The main sources of such emissions are natural systems. They include forest fires, earthquakes, volcanoes eruption, and human activities. They are predominantly related to energy production and industrial activities.

Climate change causes unpredictable weather changes like rise in sea level, floods, droughts, severe storms and cyclones. It also leads to extreme weather causing heatwaves or cold spells, wildfires, food and water insecurity. The effects of climate change are multi-fold, affecting not only the environment, but having economic and social implications. Destruction caused by climate disasters leads people to lose their homes and livelihood . This results in poverty, hunger and various health issues. Climate change has also caused the issue of environmental refugees. Over the decade 2010–2019, weather-related events displaced an estimated 23.1 million people on average each year.

Strategies to deal with Climate Change:

The two main strategies are Mitigation and Adaptation:

Mitigation:

Mitigation strategies include “Actions taken to reduce or eliminate the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to prevent adverse climate impacts.” It focuses on measures that cut off GHG emissions or move carbon out of the atmosphere. This can range from investment in renewable and clean energies, forest conservation and reforestation. It leads to less relying on fossil fuels, and increasing global cooperation.

The basic rationale behind mitigation is to identify and change the root causes of climate change. This involves changing consumption patterns. It involves using renewable forms of energy like wind or solar power and designing greener technologies.

Adaptation:

As we know that sufficient GHG concentrations are already in the atmosphere, some effects of climate change will continue despite mitigation. Adaptation strategies are “Actions meant to compensate for and adapt to the adverse impacts that arise from climate change through adjustments in social, ecological or economic systems.”

The goal of adaptation strategies is to increase adaptive capacity, or the ability to respond effectively to the risk. A second goal is to increase resilience is to continue functioning when confronted with shock and stress. A third goal is to reduce vulnerability to harm when exposed to a threat.

Adaptation activities includes water conservation, drainage systems, reservoirs and irrigation systems. In addition, raising awareness, risk reduction through early warning and response systems. This requires technology transfer, and making sustainable infrastructure.

Global Efforts for Mitigation and Adaptation

1979 First World Climate Conference

It was held in Geneva in 1979. It led to the establishment of the World Climate Programme and the World Climate Research Programme and called on all nations to support the proposed programme and promote research and development on this issue. Its significance is that it was the first conference in which climate change was recognized as a potential threat to the future.

1988 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up by the World Meteorological Organization in collaboration with the UNEP to provide governments with scientific information that can be used to formulate climate-related policies. The convention set out the commitments to all parties involved, putting major responsibilities on developed countries to implement national policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to assist vulnerable developing country parties financially and technologically in taking climate action.

1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was compiled. The Climate Convention only set out general actions to limit the greenhouse gas emissions.

2005 Kyoto Protocol

During the COP-3 conference in 1997, the Kyoto protocol was adopted and went into force in 2005. The Kyoto protocol was revolutionary because it contained emission reduction goals by developed countries in the period between 2008 and 2012. The protocol introduced two project-based mechanisms: clean development mechanism and joint implementation mechanism through which developed country invest and develop emission reduction projects in developing countries. Emission reduction has mainly been achieved by renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation related projects.

By the end of 1997, over 150 countries had signed the Kyoto Protocol. The United States was actively involved in the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol. However, in 2001, the US refused to ratify it, citing potential damage to its economy by compliance.

2015 Paris Agreement

In 2013, the industrialized developed states like US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia argued that the rise in emissions is no longer coming from developed countries, but from major developing countries like China, India, Brazil, South Africa and others, whose emissions are not regulated by the Kyoto Protocol.

In December 2015, the countries met at the COP-21 conference held in Paris and agreed that a new agreement that will be implemented from 2020 and will be applicable to all countries.

The Paris Agreement brought in new goals, obligations, and rules for reporting to the pre-existing framework aimed at addressing climate change. Its primary aim is to restrict the rise in global temperature to 2°C by 2100, with the intention of striving for efforts to keep it within 1.5°C in the long run. There was increased emphasis that all should take national measures to fulfil their commitment.

2015 Sustainable Development Goals

At the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, 193 countries adopted the 2030 Development Agenda and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These can be divided to three domains: economic, social and environmental and climate change impacts all three of them. Goal 13 aims at ‘Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts’. It includes following goals:

  • Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
  • To integrate climate change measures into national policies and planning.
  • Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and impact reduction.

2022 COP 27:

It was held in 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. UNEP 2022 Adaptation Gap Report showed that adapting to the climate crisis could cost developing countries anywhere from US$160-US$340 billion annually by 2030. That number could swell to as much as US$565 billion by 2050 if climate change accelerates.

Countries reached a historic decision in COP-27 to establish and operationalize a loss and damage fund, particularly for nations most vulnerable to the climate crisis in form of droughts, floods, rising seas and other disasters.

Two UN Bodies, the Technology Executive Committee and Climate Technology Centre and Network announced plans to accelerate the deployment of “transformative” technologies to counter the climate crisis. Furthermore, UNEP announced the launch of a new satellite-based system designed to detect methane emissions, to notify companies of methane leaks, helping them to take action.

Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE)

Action for Climate Empowerment is a term adopted by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The main goal of ACE is to empower all members of society to engage in climate action, through the six ACE elements: climate change education and public awareness, training, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation on these issues. It is emphasized that everyone especially the young generation, must understand and participate to create a climate-resilient world.

Regional Organizations Efforts

European Green Deal: In December 2019, EU leaders agreed that the EU should achieve climate-neutrality by 2050. By 2030, EU emissions will be cut by at least 55%. In June 2021, the Council adopted the European climate law through which EU countries are legally obliged to reach both the 2030 and 2050 climate goals.

ASEAN Climate Change Initiative (ACCI) was adopted in 2009 to address climate change and mitigating its impacts. The ASEAN Disaster Management and Emergency Relief Fund was established in 2009. The fund is supported by voluntary contributions from member states and external actors.

South Asia Disaster Knowledge Network (SADKN) was established by SAARC. It is a significant platform for sharing knowledge and information about disaster risk reduction management in South Asia. However, cooperation within the SADKN only exists on a bilateral level and through alternative regional configurations.

Asian Disaster Preparedness Center which is NGO that brings together the national disaster management organizations of different Asian states and works to improve disaster management mechanism.

Regional Climate Change Strategy for 2016–2030 was adopted by Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African regional organization. They also established Climate Prediction and Application Centre and are promoting sustainable development strategies at state and regional levels aimed at building resilience to future climatic and economic shocks.

Hindrances in Achievement of Climate Goals

The biggest issue is lack of implementation. Initiatives are often proposed and planned but rarely implemented. For example, before starting COP27 meeting, countries were supposed to submit their national plans to help limit global temperature rises to 1.5 Celsius and also expected to present plans. Yet only 24 of 193 nations had submitted such plans. Even if states agree to take measures their efforts are rarely coordinated.

Insufficient resources, especially for Asian and Asian states and regional organizations also act as a hindrance. Even if they develop an effective strategy, they don’t have enough funds to implement it.

States often have competing or conflicting priorities for action. The states which are not directly affected by climate change don’t feel the need or urgency to take mitigation measures.

Realist political ambitions of leaders is also a threat to cooperation e.g., Trump backed out from Paris agreement in 2017 at a protectionist policy as he emphasized that the agreement was detrimental for US economy.

Uncertainty about severity of climate change impacts is also one of the issues. Unfortunately, some policymakers still believe that the consequences of climate change are not as drastic as scientists warn, and therefore do not view it as a matter of urgency.

Conclusion

As climate change continues to cause an increase in the death toll, world leaders are intensifying their efforts both globally and regionally. While these efforts are commendable, more cooperation is required to address the core issues and hindrances that stand in the way of achieving climate goals.

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The author is currently a student of BS International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University
Islamabad.

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