Highlight 16/2021 – Climate change: Walk the talk!
Maheshwar Mani Tripathi, 30 April 2021
Mt. Everest, the only place on earth which penetrates the stratosphere, is known for its pristine but notoriously lethal thin air forcing the climbers to carry their personal oxygen to the top. However, an international scientific expedition in 2019 found that there is now more oxygen at the Everest owing to the increasing air pressure and the decreasing amount of snow abound with microplastics. Is this alarming? Certainly, but surprising maybe not. Climate change has become so real and ubiquitous that microplastics and other pollutants are found aplenty in the least expected places on earth be it the deepest ocean beds of Mariana Trench or the Everest.
In its recent report State of the Global Climate 2020 published on 19 April 2021, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) paints a bleak picture of our climate showing that in 2020 the global average temperature was about 1.2° Celsius above the pre-industrial level. This should cause an unease to everyone. There were predictions that because of COVID-19 related shutdowns across the world, the climate would fare well in 2020. But, alas, this was not the case and the greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2020 making it one of the hottest years in record. With 28 years of publishing the data by WMO, bearing the same message of incremental deterioration of the climate, it is not really the question of science anymore but of commitments and action.
The “frightening” report, as aptly described by the UN Secretary General, coincided with the Leaders Summit on Climate, convened on 22-23 April by the US under President Biden’s new leadership. After rejoining the Paris Agreement, this conference is being taken as a renewed leadership by the US in climate negotiations. Attended by the leaders from select 40 countries, the Summit saw some new commitments by the states including by the US which committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% below its 2005 emissions levels by 2030. However, making commitments is not a new phenomenon, we have been making plenty of them. It is the actions taken that will matter at the end. Yet, this is a positive step towards COP26 Glasgow to be organized this year.
While the WMO report is the annual reminder of our climate status, the reinvigorated American involvement in the climate negotiations the year 2021 should pave the way towards the end of our collective inaction. There are conjectures abound that the next catastrophe to hit the world at global scale would be climate related. The pandemic has already shown how unprepared we can be when faced with a global catastrophe. A global climate catastrophe would be with unimaginable consequences. That is why it is time for the countries and the leaders to walk the talk!
Maheshwar Mani TRIPATHI, Climate change: Walk the talk!, Highlight 16/2021, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the author and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.