What is climate change, and why is it a global concern
Climate change is one of the most pressing global issues of our time because it extends beyond borders and has the potential to cause widespread economic damage and political instability. Global efforts to reduce climate change will require international cooperation and collaborative solutions.
Climate change refers to a broad array of environmental changes resulting from increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. These changes include rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, and increased extreme weather events. People and ecosystems worldwide are already feeling the impacts of climate change, and the situation is predicted to worsen.
While critics say government response has been slow, leaders around the world are heading the warnings and taking action to mitigate the effects of climate change and prevent further damage.
How governments are working to Reduce climate change
In 2015, world leaders drafted the historic Paris Agreement, a legally binding international climate change treaty that pledged to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. Today, 192 countries, plus the European Union, have joined the Paris Agreement and committed to reducing their emissions and working together to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Since 2015, progress has been made on several fronts to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change. As of June 2022, 128 countries (65% of Paris Agreement signatories) had committed to a net zero target (greenhouse gasses going into the atmosphere are offset by removal from the atmosphere). Of those, 104 committed to achieving net zero between 2041 and 2050. While few countries have committed to achieving net zero before 2041, 10 have set targets for after 2050.
The Climate Change Act 2008 is the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) statutory commitment of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In June 2019, the Act was updated with the goal of reducing emissions by 78 percent by 2035 and 100 percent by 2050. These goals are some of the world’s most ambitious and have led to several landmark agreements and ambitious blueprints:
- The North Sea Transition Deal will support the oil and gas industry’s transition to clean, green energy
- The Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy outlines how industry can decarbonize while remaining competitive
- Together For Our Planet calls upon businesses, schools, and members of the public to take action on climate change
- The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution is a policy paper for supporting green jobs and accelerating the UK’s path to net zero
In an effort to be the first climate-neutral continent, the European Union (EU) is fighting climate change and has committed to achieving net zero by 2050 through the European Green Deal. The European Green Deal includes several ambitious policies:
- The European Climate Law writes into law the goals set out in the European Green Deal
- The European Climate Pact is an EU-wide initiative that encourages people, communities, and organizations to learn about climate change, develop and implement solutions, and connect with others and maximize the impact of their solutions
- The 2030 Climate Target Plan sets Europe on the path to net zero by 2050 by cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030
When the United States (US) re-entered the Paris Agreement in 2021, the Biden Administration committed to reducing emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030. And, while a net zero by 2050 commitment was not made, the Biden administration declared its intention to drive toward this goal as soon as possible.
Before the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, federal actions addressing climate change in the US had been enacted by Executive Orders, which can be overturned by subsequent administrations. However, the Inflation Reduction Act puts the US on a path to a 40% emission reduction by codifying into law several climate change provisions:
- Investments in decarbonizing all sectors of the economy
- Consumer incentives to purchase energy efficient and electric appliances, electric vehicles, and rooftop solar and to invest in home energy efficiency
- Policies that support clean energy manufacturing and production
- Investments in clean government fleets, school buses, garbage trucks, and other heavy duty vehicles
- Zero emission equipment and technology for ports
United Arab Emirates
As a nation particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the first Middle East and North Africa (MENA) nation to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The following national initiatives are key to achieving their net zero goals:
- One of the six pillars of Vision 2021 targets a sustainable environment and infrastructure by 2021.
- The National Climate Change Plan of the UAE 2017-2050 outlines UAE’s key climate priorities which include a national emissions management system, national adaptation and implementation, and a private sector-driven innovative diversification program
- Environment Vision 2030 was developed by Abu Dhabi to minimize the impact of climate change, protect clean and and reduce noise pollution, manage and conserve water resources, conserve habitats and cultural heritage, and optimize waste management
- Through the Masdar Initiative, Abu Dhabi has committed more than $15 billion to renewable energy programs.
Challenges facing Global efforts to Reduce climate change
Despite the scientific community’s consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity, the issue remains highly controversial, and governments have been slow to act. This resistance to meaningful action is due, in part, to the fact that climate change presents a daunting challenge to governments around the world.
Leaders worldwide have attempted to address climate change in recent years, but several challenges have hindered these efforts. The first challenge has been a lack of political will to take meaningful action. Secondly, have been a lack of agreement on what needs to be done. And finally, powerful economic interests that oppose any action have successfully slowed progress.
As governments grapple with how to best address climate change, they must overcome these challenges and take more aggressive action to ensure a sustainable future for all. Otherwise, we may well look back on this period as a time when we failed to meet the greatest challenge of our generation.
Ways individuals can help stop climate change
Though climate change appears to be a daunting task, there are many things that individuals can do to help slow it. Climate change is caused by the release of greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and cause the planet to warm. The primary culprits are carbon dioxide and methane, both of which come from human activity.
To help reduce these emissions, people can make simple changes in their daily lives, such as carpooling, taking public transportation, or riding a bike instead of driving. In addition, people can reduce their energy consumption by turning off lights when they leave a room and unplugging appliances when they’re not in use. Every little bit helps when it comes to climate change, and every person has the power to make a difference.
The future of climate change and what we can do to prepare for it
There is no doubt that climate change is real, and we are feeling the impacts right now. The question is: how can we prepare for climate change impacts?
We can prepare for the future of climate change in several ways. The first step is to assess your risk of being impacted by climate change’s most pressing impacts. If you live in the United States, you can use the National Risk Index Map to assess your risk for wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and more.
If you live outside the United States, search your government websites for similar risk assessments. If you can’t find one, you can conduct your own assessment. If you live along the coast, you will want to prepare for rising sea levels and extreme storms. If you live in an area that has experienced flooding, drought, tornadoes, or winter storms in the past, you can expect these events to continue and worsen. And, nearly everywhere will be subject to rising temperatures, including heat waves.
Once you know your risk, you must prepare yourself and your family for potential climate change impacts. Preparing means ensuring you stay informed, readying yourself for evacuation or to shelter-in-place, and brushing up on your first aid.
Of course, no one can predict the future, and even the best preparations may not be enough to protect us entirely. But by being aware of the risks and taking steps to reduce them, we can all do our part to ensure that we’re ready for whatever nature throws our way.