Tuesday, December 01, 2015

We can tackle climate change by cleaning up our cities

[The Guardian] With more than 190 countries gathering in Paris this week the world still has a chance to avoid dangerous global warming – but only just. Already more than 160 countries have submitted pledges to reduce or limit their emissions of greenhouse gases by 2025 or 2030. Collectively these represent a substantial improvement on “business as usual”, but they are some way from a path that offers a reasonable probability of restricting the rise in global average temperature above its pre-industrial level to no more than 2C.
There is a serious emissions gap over the next 15 years: under the current pledges, emissions will go on rising until at least 2030. Warming of about 2C creates deeply worrying risks of triggering the kind of consequences – such as rapid sea level rise or the release of methane from gas hydrates in the ocean – that could prove catastrophic, potentially causing hundreds of millions of people to move from receding coastlines and more extreme weather. That will mean more migration, more refugees, more conflict and a world without peace and prosperity. That is why the world community, via the UNFCCC, regards warming above 2C as dangerous.
In Paris countries are expected to commit themselves to more ambitious emissions cuts, but there is no room for further delay. Already we are seeing the impact of climate change growing around the world, with more heatwaves, more record rainfall events and more intense droughts. There are signs that the major land-based ice sheets on Greenland and west Antarctica may be becoming unstable. Together they hold enough water to raise global sea levels by about 13 metres. The climate warning signals are all around us.
Governments around the world now acknowledge these dangers, and have started moving to low-carbon economies. Some have made more progress than others; some are more ambitious. But the direction of travel is clear.
One of the most crucial recent developments is that countries increasingly recognise the compatibility of action to tackle climate change with efforts to overcome poverty and raise living standards. These aims are intertwined and reinforce, rather than compete, with each other. Read More