Monday, December 23, 2019

COP25: A Spectacular Failure

This year's annual UN climate conference, COP25 in Madrid which ended on December 15 – the longest on record – was a spectacular failure. 

It suffices to say few serious commitments had emerged to meet the pledges made in Paris in 2015 – an upsetting outcome that revealed a distressing deficiency of honest conviction to address an issue threatening the very survival of some countries in the foreseeable future, and every one of us in the not-much-longer term. 

In fact, the science shows that emissions are still going up, not down. Particularly in many of the biggest emitter countries like the US, China and Japan. 

Indeed, it is reprehensively indefensible that global fossil fuel emissions have risen four percent since Paris, even as the decibel level of scientific sirens has gone up sharply, imploring us to embrace “transformative change” in an “emergency response”. 

Incredulously, as this dawning, existential crisis becomes more visible on the horizon, we are still tiptoeing around the problem and the powerful economic interests behind it. 

Countries that are supposed to do more and countries that can do more are simply not forthcoming. 

Compounding the consequences of our negligence, in November seven eminent scientists, writing in the journal Nature, reported their conclusion that more than half the “tipping points” identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change decades ago have been activated, raising the specter of abrupt and irreversible climate changes. 

These include the thaw of Arctic permafrost and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, both massive reservoirs that now threaten to release billions of additional tonnes of carbon. Inevitably, the greatest burdens of climate change will fall disproportionately on poor countries, i.e. those least responsible for the problem. 

For sure, this whole COP exercise has become nothing more than a talk shop. What started out as a good initiative to demonstrate unity of purpose has diminished into trenchant irrelevance. 

Skeptics and unbelievers should know that climate change is happening – the world is already 1.1°C warmer than it was at the onset of the industrial revolution, and it is already having a significant impact on the world, and on people’s lives. And if current trends persist, then global temperatures can be expected to rise by 3.2 to 3.9°C this century, which would bring wide-ranging and destructive climate impacts. 

The implications of this failed COP25 were perhaps summed up best by the low-lying Pacific island state of Tuvalu, whose representative Ian Fry said of the outcome: "There are millions of people all around the world who are already suffering from the impacts of climate change. Denying this fact could be interpreted by some to be a crime against humanity". 

The world has let another chance slip by to tackle the climate crisis, and time is fast running out.

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