Take Climate Action
It is clear that climate change is the defining issue of our time. Emissions are still growing and the climate change situation is getting worse. When the Paris Agreement was adopted at the COP21 in Paris, and went into force in November of 2016, all countries agreed to work to limit the global temperature a rise to well below 2 degrees centigrade. As of April 2018, 175 parties had ratified the Paris Agreement and 10 developing countries had submitted the first iteration of their national adaptation plans for responding to climate change.
Three years later, a few days before the UN climate summit held on 23 September 2019 in New York, the World Meteorological Organisation published new data showing 2014 – 2019 to be the warmest five-year period on record.
In a key speech in New York City, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reminded his audience of the accelerating impacts of climate change that are already clearly visible today – including extreme heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods this year. He said
In some situations, they are approaching scientists’ worst-case scenarios. Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than we imagined possible. This year, for the first time, thick permanent sea ice north of Greenland began to break up. This dramatic warming in the Arctic is affecting weather patterns across the northern hemisphere.
Wildfires are lasting longer and spreading further. Some of these blazes are so big that they send soot and ash around the world, blackening glaciers and ice caps and making them melt even faster.
Oceans are becoming more acidic, threatening the foundation of the food chains that sustain life. Corals are dying in vast amounts, further depleting vital fisheries.
And, on land, the high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making rice crops less nutritious, threatening well-being and food security for billions of people. As climate change intensifies, we will find it harder to feed ourselves. Extinction rates will spike as vital habitats decline. More and more people will be forced to migrate from their homes as the land they depend on becomes less able to support them. This is already leading to many local conflicts over dwindling resources.
This past May, the World Meteorological Organization reported that the planet marked another grim milestone: the highest monthly average for carbon dioxide levels ever recorded. Four hundred parts per million has long been seen as a critical threshold. But we have now surpassed 411 parts per millions and the concentrations continue to rise. This is the highest concentration in 3 million years.
We know what is happening to our planet.
We know what we need to do.
And we even know how to do it.
But sadly, the ambition of our action is nowhere near where it needs to be.
However, a week before the UN climate summit on 23 September 2019, thousands of people around the world were striking and demanding that their governments take urgent action on the escalating ecological emergency. Schools and workplaces stood together across different time zones in what was recorded as one of the biggest climate protests in history.
Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, has become well-known as a climate change activist. Thunberg’s “School Strike For Climate”, began a year ago in her home town of Stockholm and has spread around the world, inspiring hundreds of thousands of students to skip classes and take to the streets to demand that governments, in Thunberg’s words, “act like the house is on fire – because it is”.
Greta Thunberg delivered an emotional speech at the UN, blaming leaders for not listening to the facts presented by scientists. She blamed them for not facing the extinctions of species and declared that the lack of leadership around the world has left us with the current devastating results.
The world’s richest nations are responsible for the climate crises, yet the results are being felt by the vulnerable and poor communities. According to an article in the Mail and Guardian , the G20, the world’s wealthiest countries, represent 80% of emissions but are doing “nowhere near enough” to scale up their goals, according to the UN. They are being eclipsed by developing countries that, in the case of low-lying countries in Asia and the Pacific, are at most peril from rising seas and drought. Guterres, who has called for net zero emissions by 2050 and the end of new coal projects from next year, has said he expects countries will do more. He did also admit that he was concerned by a spate of new coal mines backed by China.
Leonie Joubert in her article, “Our Burning Plant, State of the oceans: southern African cyclones and droughts are just a taste of things to come” highlights the devastating effects of carbon pollution, the ferocity of droughts and cyclones and the ever increasing food and water supply problems. All this shows Africa and the world that the situation is changing before our eyes. Urgency is needed to prioritize coordinated action in Southern Africa.
As Guterres said in his Paris speech to the UN in September 2018
Technology is on our side to address climate change; existing technologies are waiting to come online. Cleaner fuels, alternative building materials, better batteries and farming methods as well as other innovations can have a major impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We need to make transformation decisions in boardrooms, build coalitions and make our leaders listen.
Every day that passes the world heats up a bit more. We are facing a challenge which is not insurmountable but which, without action, will grow beyond our control. We need to take actions daily, because we can. We can avoid the dreadful fate predicted by scientists if we do it. Just look at the difference the Swedish 16-year-old has made, creating what is now being called the “Greta movement,” impacting governments influencing millions of children to walk out of schools and people to leave their workplaces, to unite across cultures and generations in the biggest climate protests in history.
Action is needed by society and we are society.
Chairman Talis Holdings
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