climate change · Easy · Environmental biology

This Week in Science: climate change

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The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty, with an objective to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations to target climate change. This treaty was adopted in 1992 and as of December 2015, has signatures from 197 parties. Since 1995, the parties meet annually in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to analyse and assess how the objectives of the treaty are being met. In 2015, an agreement was signed, known as the Paris Agreement, to bring nations together to fight this common cause to protect future generations from the impact of climate change. The main aims of the Paris Agreement was to keep the global temperature increase below 2°C when compared to pre-industrial temperatures, and to further push this increase down to 1.5°C.  To this day, 184 parties have signed the Paris Agreement.

This year, from the 3rd December to the 14th December, the 24th COP was held in Katowice, Poland. Parties met to discuss the collective efforts towards the aims set in the Paris Agreement. Before COP24 took place, evidence surfaced from climate scientists that we only have 12 years left to limit the increase in temperature change to 1.5°C. After this, climate change will take an uncontrollable spiral that will see drought and flooding, and with this famine, poverty, extreme heat, loss of houses, financial burdens and deaths across the globe. Further evidence that proves the existence of climate change is seen in East Antartica, where in a region that was previously considered unaffected by climate change, glaciers are beginning to melt significantly. It has been suggested by climate scientists that meeting the aims of the Paris Agreement can protect not only our lives and our economies, but it will also prevent the eradication of corals and will reduce the melting of polar ice caps in the Arctic. Action must be taken immediately, and drastic measures must be met.

So why is it now, at a time where climate change is more important than ever, that we are not focused on such a prominent issue? President Trump promised to pull the United States of America, the country with the second largest greenhouse gas emissions, out of the Paris Agreement. Elsewhere, countries are off target with the aim of the Paris Agreement. And here in the UK, the focus is on politicians arguing between each other on Brexit negotiations, not the COP 24.

If you ask, reasonable people will agree that climate change is real, and not only is it real, it is a threat to the planet that we call home. The people have spoken to put the brakes on climate change. At an individual level, we are taking steps to reduce climate change. We turn off the tap when we brush our teeth. We turn the lights off when we leave the room. We car share if we can. Yet the leaders who are supposed to be representing our countries are pulling out of the Paris Agreement, and aren’t communicating enough with the public the aims of such actions against climate change. The effort is present on an individual level, it now needs to be made on a local, national, industrial and global level.

In Katowice, countries created a rulebook based on the Paris Agreement, known as the Katowice Rulebook. It gives further details on how to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement.  Conclusions were made at COP24 that our efforts should be concentrated, not diluted. Now more than ever, we need to make efforts together across the globe to keep the temperature increase at below 1.5°C, or we are at risk of catastrophic consequences. Sir David Attenborough has said at the COP24 that “if we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon”. We only have one planet to live on – lets save it rather than destroy it.

Find out how you can further help here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ampstories/climatesteps/index.html

Find out how the UK is contributing towards reducing climate change here:
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46509495

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