Governments and citizens must take action to prevent global warming

Reflecting on the COP27 conference from last fall


Courtesy of Wikipedia

Nations around the world must coalesce on climate action, writes Lourdes Lopez.

Lourdes Lopez, Staff Columnist

The United Nations (U.N.) Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) took place in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh last fall, beginning on Sunday, Nov. 6, and ending on Friday, Nov. 18. Climate negotiations at this meeting lasted for two weeks as countries attempted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions amid a worldwide energy crisis, a war in Europe and growing inflation. At COP26 in Scotland, governments agreed that hazardous increases in global temperatures must be avoided at all costs; however, prompt action has not taken place.
Following the ratification of the climate agreement by a sufficient number of countries, the first COP was held in Berlin in 1995. Ten years later, a historic global climate pact known as the Kyoto Protocol went into effect. While poorer nations would reduce emissions voluntarily, the pact required wealthier, industrialized nations to do so. Its unanimous rejection by the U.S. Senate and President George W. Bush launched nearly two decades of debate over which countries are more responsible for combating climate change. When nearly 200 nations signed the historic Paris Agreement in 2016, the Obama administration broke the deadlock. For the first time, nations in both the Global North and the Global South concurred to take action to tackle climate change, even if it is at different rates.
Regardless of the significant commitments made by leaders in Paris, the worst effects of climate change have not been prevented. National leaders made lofty promises in Glasgow last year, and some of them have come through. However, only a small number of nations have acted on their promises to take more decisive action. Many countries are not following through with the promises they have made in previous COPs. Other obstacles that have arisen throughout the years like the COVID-19 pandemic may make global warming and climate change seem like menial matters. Nonetheless, the increase in global temperatures and its many negative effects should be at the top of every country’s list of priorities.
At the COP27 U.N. climate meeting in Egypt, negotiators from all the nations represented made history by deciding to establish a “loss and damage” fund to aid vulnerable nations in coping with natural disasters. “Loss and damage” refers to the current climatic impacts that nations are feeling but to which they are unable to adjust, particularly countries in the Global South that have made the smallest contributions to global warming.
At the convention, they also concurred that by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by about half. The chance of catastrophic climatic impacts greatly decreases within this 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, according to climate scientists. About 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming has already occurred on our planet. To keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, all nations must reduce emissions much more quickly and drastically than they already have.
Half a degree may not seem like much, but every additional fraction of a degree of warming could put tens of millions more people across the world at risk of heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding. Coral reefs and summer ice in the Arctic Ocean may still exist in a 1.5-degree world, but they are highly unlikely in a two-degree future.
At this time, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees would necessitate dramatic actions that would be expensive, politically challenging, disruptive and demand that almost all leaders act in unison. By 2030, they would need to cut their total emissions from fossil fuels in half, and by 2050, they would need to completely stop contributing carbon dioxide to the environment. These goals could not be reached without countries in the Global North assisting countries in the Global South like Nigeria and Afghanistan.
Thus, the decision reached at COP27 to assist the most impoverished nations to deal with loss and destruction marks a breakthrough in what has been a contentious negotiation process. This agreement to create a fund for nations vulnerable to climate disasters made worse by pollution marks the first time that nations and groups, including longtime skeptics like the U.S. and the European Union, have reached an agreement on the matter. Hopefully, all these promises and agreements are put into practice and go beyond a piece of paper. Meanwhile, we as consumers can start to make a difference.
The United States is one of the world’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases. Each year, the average American causes the emission of more than 15 tons of carbon dioxide, one of the main causes of global warming. Big corporations like oil companies are one of the main polluters and carbon dioxide emitters in the country. To help reduce these detrimental numbers, the government will need to make significant legislative reforms as well as make major modifications to the energy networks.
Citizens can take a more proactive approach to prompt the government and companies to reduce their emissions and pollutants. For example, we could push for the government to impose a carbon tax on corporations so they can reduce their emissions and become more conscious of their carbon footprint.
Nonetheless, individual carbon footprints still mount up. One-fifth of all emissions in the United States is generated by household activities, such as energy use, food expenditures and transportation. Every small change counts. Whether that is carpooling with a friend to work, taking a break from air travel or becoming a vegetarian, any modification in our day-to-day lives can help the world recuperate from its global warming sickness and climate change symptoms.