The Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention (also known as COP23) started today in Bonn, Germany, on the heels of recent extreme climate events that were experienced by some countries, the announcement of the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and repeal of the Clean Energy Plan, and just as two scientific reports pointed to the damaging effects of human activity.
These overwhelming facts prove the foolishness of living in the past. Following the path of exploitation and burning of fossil fuels as a basis for growth and economic development will take us to the cliff, and without even giving clean energy an opportunity.
A while ago, two separate reports showed not only the urgency of speeding up actions to slow down the devastating effects of climate change, but also compelled us to be even more ambitious with respect to what the parties agree to in the historic agreement.
The reports confirm omissions and errors. Why? Because the scientific data do not mention them. The first, the Greenhouse Gases Bulletin produced by the World Meteorological Organization and released last Oct. 30, said that in 2016, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached the highest level in 800,000 years.
The abrupt changes observed in the atmosphere are unprecedented, since the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases and causes of global warming, reached 403.3 parts per million. It passed the barrier of 400 parts per million, which was registered in 2015, the year the climate agreement was signed.
In other words, there is an accelerated and dangerous increase in global temperature, which, according to the WMO, originates from human activities in conjunction with the powerful presence of the El Niño phenomenon.
The emphasis is on the fact that a rapid increase in the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will produce changes in climate systems causing “serious ecological and economic disturbances.”
Alarming? Yes it is. For example: Take 2017.
Various zones of the planet experienced dramatic episodes as a result of climate imbalance.
There were Harvey, Irma and Maria, hurricanes classified as the most devastating in recent years, which ravaged American territories and the Caribbean, and floods resulting from heavy monsoon rains in some South Asian countries. This is in addition to droughts, forest fires and dangerous heat waves.
We should not forget the accelerated melting in the Arctic and in Antarctica, which keeps contributing to the rise in sea level and puts ecosystems and unique species on the path to extinction. Those alone are climate extremes that threaten to be even more dangerous, more frequent, and irreversible. What to think of it? It threatens all of us.
The second report released last Friday is an extensive scientific report created by 13 agencies in the U.S. government, and was published at an opportune time, since it contradicts each and every one of the positions taken by President Trump; EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry denying that climate change is real.
The central premise is that humanity is culpable for most of the rise in global temperatures due to the burning of fossil fuels, which has elevated the carbon dioxide levels.
There is another finding: The planet is warming up at an alarming rate and is in the warmest period in the history of modern civilization.
The report, known as the National Climate Assessment, was ordered by Congress and has to be produced every four years. In this case, it coincides with the COP23 meeting, where it is desirable and foreseeable that the American delegation will be strongly questioned.
Why? To begin with, Trump is a danger to the world because he is fighting the current trend by aggressively promoting coal and other hydrocarbons and moving to dismantle federal programs that combat climate change.
He probably won’t reverse his policy, but it is alarming that his positions are influencing the plans of other nations. For example, there is Russia, which has signed the agreement, but hasn’t ratified it.
It is encouraging that several states and more than 300 cities in the United States, as well as large companies, are committed to complying with the agreement.
But if the Bonn climate conference nations stick to their original goals, they will not be able to keep temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius. Regrettably, one can see an increase of 3 degrees Celsius on the horizon, with even more catastrophic consequences.
So, 2018 is going to be a critical year, and as we will see, not just politically speaking.
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