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US Recantation from the Pleasures of Paris Agreement: Implications and Imperatives for Climate Human Rights

Dr. Nafees Ahmad

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he technology of tectonic torment, oceanic oppression and climate contumacy of the world wolfs has inflicted indelible scars upon the climate. On the occasion of World Environment Day (WED) on June 05, 2017, We, the Nations of the World, got wedded with the climate contumacy of the US that has, ultimately, decimated the dreams and desires and had meted out the global grief to the humanity.

In 2015, at Paris—a city known for its pleasures—a utopia was created only to be destroyed later. The Paris Agreement has been regarded as the biggest step ever collectively accomplished by the global community to alleviate the catastrophic impact of climate change on the only planet blessed with essentials of sustainable human existence and survival. However, the history is replete with the instances of US recalcitrant behaviour in international commitments in the areas of preserving environmental ecology and human rights teleology. In this context, America cannot be great again on the decimation of lives of the people of 194 countries of the world in its quest for a Pyrrhic economic growth.

Since the inauguration of the Donald Trump’s presidency in the US, Paris Climate Change Agreement has been a political cynosure only for the wrong reasons. Consequently, US eccentricities after Kyoto Protocol were once again exposed in its latest recantation from Paris Agreement that was formulated as per its whims and megrims as a non-binding and non-penal agreement. It is an act of below the belt diplomacy and political hara-kiri that might derail the Climate Justice peregrination. Now, the comity of civilized nation-states sans US, Syria, and Nicaragua must ponder over the existing contours of the impugned agreement and recalibrate it as a binding pact for the posterity. Because future of 95% people of the world is greater than the 5% population that has adopted a policy of my way is high way deviant to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Climate Change has attained the proportions of an invisible but invincible war unless We, the Nations of the World, believe in the collective, cohesive and corroborative actions based on the global rule of law, global sovereign equality, global common good, global state transparency, global, national accountability and global massy reality. Thus, the climate change is an issue of human rights as it endangers the entire human survival.

The composite cultural heritage of humanity, rummaged and reviewed from the perspectives—socialist or capitalist, spiritualist or materialist, or biblical or individual—cogently convinces that in every human being, person and group there is an irreducible, irrevocable, inalienable, non-negotiable and non-derogable existence of a supreme spirit called “climate human rights” (CHRs). In the denial of CHRs, human dignity is decimated, human duty is divagated, and human civilization takes a step backward. The emblem of humanity on each occasion must fly full mast. The state forces fretting fraternity must be fumigated. The CHRs Odyssey has many vulpine visions, adroit adventures and indentured indulgences and the same has been displayed by the Trump regime. Today, context, content, and currents of CHRs juri-science are pervading all the nationalities beyond its past, present, and future and are on the path of perennial permutation to the World Wide Web of social behavaiour deviant to a confluence of contradictions, conflicts, and clashes. The CHRs jurisprudence sans human hierarchy is the transnational trajectory of understanding climate change.

The human heritage of vintage vision, ancient ancestry, and pristine pursuits must be the congregate of the humanity while understanding the CHRs seriously beyond the future. The classical and contemporary chaos in the cosmos of humanity is escalating at a pace never witnessed before. The concept of CHRs has a history marked by the philosophical paradoxes, political pontifications, and geostrategic considerations. Knowing that history and understanding those paradoxes is the international itinerary which illuminates the state of CHRs today. The global grief springs from the globalization is a complex and controversial phenomenon that ramified, rankled and revisited the concept of CHRs. One of the few certainties is that understanding CHRs seriously will be essential to understanding the world that we live in with the threat to the climate for all times to come.

There are specific terminologies which denote the different stages of climate talks traversing to address the adverse impacts of climate change. Therefore, COP-21 stands for the Conference of the Parties that has been representing the countries who have signed and participated up to the 1992 UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). The COP in Paris is the 21st such conference and known as the Paris Agreement and in French as Accord de Paris within the UNFCCC addressing the climate change issues like greenhouse gases emissions, mitigation, adaptation, and finance commencing in the year 2020. But President Trump has always adopted an exclusivist agenda deviant to the international consensus and priorities. Trump’s anti-climate change policies are based on promoting the exploitation and mining of domestic natural resources such as fossil fuel and coal. Trump has issued an executive order in March 2017 whereunder all rules and regulations prohibiting such expropriations were amended, diluted, and weakened. Moreover, the disputed order has rejected the global standards of carbon pollution in the energy sector and created the impediments for implementing the plans of clean energy, which were directed to mitigate the of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power plants. US recantation from the Paris Climate Change Agreement has meted out a colossal yank to the minimalist initiatives made by the Obama administration. Even before the issuing the controversial order, Trump administration has already cut the grants in the US Federal Budget of all the key programmes for mitigation of Greenhouse Gases emissions. Moreover, all scientific research programmes relating to the climate change studies were also cut to size inter-alia winding up of GCF (Green Climate Fund) and closing the funding the UNFCCC bodies. Primarily, the GCF was created to help and facilitate the developing countries in their fight against the mounting menace of climate change. The US denial and its withdrawal from the COP-21arrangement amount to the betrayal and barbarity having obvious implications for rest of the international community. Therefore, remaining countries should re-calibrate and re-cast COP-21 Agreement and sideline the US in their quest for an equitable global order.

Primarily, COP-21 agreement was envisaged and prepared US lines exclusively as it was, initially, not keen to fulfill all the obligations and it was not ready to attend its part of the problem of climate change. Thus, US have sponsored an agreement that has stipulated minimum responsibility and US has also promised most minimum threshold of emission mitigation. Moreover, US assured the international community to reduce 26-28 percent emissions and bring back the existing emissions levels to the levels of 2005 by the year 2025. But, even if the year 1990 is considered the baseline, then the US would be able to reduce its emissions levels only 13-15 percent by the year 2025, and by the year 2030, it would reduce only 23-27 percent of emissions. However, EU would reduce only 40 percent emissions to the levels of 1990 by the year 2030 because Obama Administration was not keen to get Paris Climate Change Agreement passed by the US Congress. Therefore, Paris agreement has been envisioned and prepared as a voluntary, non-binding, and non-penal arrangement. The US cannot come out of the Paris Agreement by calling it unreasonable and against interests of America. It is, indeed, the fallible and fallacious argument that has undermined the convictions and commitments of 194 countries of the world. These countries had accommodated the flawed and cynical concerns of the US with the only hope that the US would fulfill its obligations under the impugned agreement.

It is, now, axiomatic that the COP-21 Agreement cannot achieve its targets without the full participation of the US Government. It must not be ignored that the US has hugely polluted the environment with impunity. The US is responsible for contributing 21 percent pollution out of the total CO2 in the environment. Presently, the US is the second biggest polluter country in the world and regarding emissions as per capita income it the first country. Therefore, till the US bears its responsibility of achieving its part of emissions targets, then rest of the countries would not be able to accomplish the Paris objectives.

The COP-21 Agreement has been founded on the principle of “upward mobility” accomplishment of mitigation targets of emissions as the treaty forges ahead. It was the central argument that convinced the developing countries to be privy to the Paris Agreement. Now, Trump administration wants to re-calibrate the contours of its contributions under the censured agreement that fundamentally annihilates the core principle of the Paris understanding. Thus, any tinkering with the existing orientation of the COP-21 agreement would destine to make the life of the planet earth dangerous and destructive for sustainable survival in years ahead. The COP-21 agreement has made fiscal provisions whereunder the developed countries have to grant $100 billion to developing countries along with the transfer of technology and other incidental supports to it. But, unfortunately, the US has disturbed the entire roadmap of addressing the dangerous repercussions of climate change with its withdrawal at this juncture. Ultimately, with the US repudiation of this agreement, the developing world must come forward to have a new arrangement excluding the US. Trump regime is impregnated with many obtuse perceptions relating to the developing countries, and President Donald Trump has to make a discernible choice between perception-based governance and policy-based governance. Now, the time has come for the developing countries to ponder over how to attend international challenges in some fields by minimizing their dependence on the US. The humanity of 194 countries and their CHRs cannot be treated as a pawn in the hands of the US and at the altar of its so-called interests.

Ph. D., LL.M, Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University (SAARC)-New Delhi, Nafees Ahmad is an Indian national who holds a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in International Refugee Law and Human Rights. Author teaches and writes on International Forced Migrations, Climate Change Refugees & Human Displacement Refugee, Policy, Asylum, Durable Solutions and Extradition Issus. He conducted research on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Jammu & Kashmir and North-East Region in India and has worked with several research scholars from US, UK and India and consulted with several research institutions and NGO’s in the area of human displacement and forced migration. He has introduced a new Program called Comparative Constitutional Law of SAARC Nations for LLM along with International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law & Forced Migration Studies. He has been serving since 2010 as Senior Visiting Faculty to World Learning (WL)-India under the India-Health and Human Rights Program organized by the World Learning, 1 Kipling Road, Brattleboro VT-05302, USA for Fall & Spring Semesters Batches of US Students by its School for International Training (SIT Study Abroad) in New Delhi-INDIA nafeestarana[at]gmail.com,drnafeesahmad[at]sau.ac.in

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How Climate Change Affects Water Resources in Costa Rica

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Sitting on the thin stretch of land that separates the Pacific from the Caribbean, Costa Rica has in recent years experienced above-average ocean temperatures and the first hurricane ever recorded. With the help of the IAEA, its scientists are now turning to isotopic techniques to monitor these extreme weather events and protect the country’s water and population, in a region that has been identified as an area that could be particularly affected by climate change.

“Water has memory,” said Ricardo SánchezMurillo, coordinator of the Stable Isotopes Research Group at the National University of Costa Rica in Heredia. “With isotopes, we can record this memory and use the current information we gather in precipitation to understand past climate events and improve Costa Rica’s planning to face future meteorological events, including hurricanes.” In 2015, after a severe drought period, Central America saw one of the strongest El Niño Southern Oscillations — a warming of the ocean surface that has been happening in the region for centuries. One year later, Costa Rica faced the first hurricane recorded to date in the southernmost region of Central America.

“We didn’t have any historical records of hurricanes impacting Costa Rica,” SánchezMurillo said. “So we were susceptible and suffered the consequences, because we didn’t know how to respond.”

Such phenomena carry with them a collection of isotopic fingerprints that scientists like Sánchez-Murillo can capture using special nuclear-derived techniques. Once recorded, they use the isotope data, coupled with climatic models and past climatic records, to predict the frequency, magnitude and intensity of future meteorological events and inform authorities, who in turn can be better prepared. The science behind this is called isotope hydrology (see Isotope hydrology).

“We now have the tracers, which act as a sentinel,” Sánchez-Murillo said. “These techniques give us the capacity to see what conventional instruments cannot reach. Where conventional methods cannot see, isotopes can.”

Using isotopic techniques to study poorly understood water systems, experts are also finding solutions to water challenges related to climate change that are affecting even the wettest regions, including Costa Rica. With these techniques, scientists can determine the quantity and quality of water supplies. They use naturally occurring isotopes as tracers to find out where groundwater comes from, if it is recent or old, if it is being recharged or polluted, and how it travels.

Through the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme, hydrologists in Costa Rica have received support and training to develop a monitoring network that traces precipitation and underground water processes.

Understanding rainfall patterns helps hydrologists know where, when and how water is recharged — information that is key to devising land and water management plans. With isotopes, they have studied water in the Central Valley, a biological corridor between the Pacific and Caribbean slopes that supplies drinking water to approximately a fifth of Costa Rica’s population, around one million people. And today, they know the exact height and zones from which aquifers get new water.

“Understanding the key factors controlling rainfall patterns and their relationship with groundwater recharge is essential for government and environmental agencies to prioritize resources and efforts,” Sánchez Murillo said. “Now that we know the critical recharge areas and how groundwater travels, we can prioritize the conservation of these areas over commercial activities.”

Impacting policy

The work by Sánchez-Murillo and his team is intended to enable the government to target conservation measures at the most critical areas of recharge. This would, in turn, allow residents, farmers, or businesses to continue developing activities without having a negative impact on the sources of water.

“While we have always had regulations in place to protect our water, the difference is that now we can be more precise, more efficient,” Sánchez-Murillo said. “We know exactly which areas need special attention, and we know how to protect them to ensure water supply for now and the coming decades.”

THE SCIENCE

Isotope hydrology

Every water molecule has hydrogen and oxygen atoms, but these are not all the same: some atoms are lighter and some are heavier.

“All natural waters have a different hydrogen and oxygen isotopic composition,” said IAEA isotope hydrologist Lucía Ortega. “We use this isotopic composition as the fingerprints of water.”

As water evaporates from the sea, molecules with lighter isotopes tend to preferentially rise. As rain falls, molecules with heavier isotopes fall sooner. The further the cloud moves inland, the higher the proportion of molecules with light isotopes in rain.

When water falls to the earth, it fills lakes, rivers and aquifers, Ortega said. “By measuring the difference in the proportions between the light and heavy isotopes, we can estimate the origin of different waters.”

In addition, the abundance of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes present in water, such as tritium and noble gas isotopes dissolved in the water, can be used to estimate groundwater age — from a few days to one millennia. “And this is key to help us assess the quality, quantity and sustainability of water,” she said.

Climate change and water were topics discussed during the IAEA’s 2018 Scientific Forum. See more information about the Forum, titled Nuclear Technology for Climate: Mitigation, Monitoring and Adaptation, here.

IAEA

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How Genetics and Pollution Are Threatening Wild Dolphins

Meena Miriam Yust

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Dolphins are beautiful, highly intelligent and uncannily human in their interactions. Yet, they also have a language we humans cannot fully hear, and a culture that is in some ways similar to our own, and in others, a complete mystery.

Like us, they have circles of friends and acquaintances, with different greetings for different individuals, as if by name. They travel swiftly within a home range of about 100-square kilometers but can go further when they want to. They have the sleek design of a jet plane fuselage and the intelligence that comes with a 1,600-gram complexly structured brain. (The human brain is 1,300 grams.)

Found in almost all the world’s oceans, they communicate with friends and family through clicks and whistles, and echolocation allows them to view the world around them. They pass on knowledge of culture and tools through the generations from mother to daughter, a matrilineal line that preserves and protects their heritage.

Approximately 40 species of dolphins exist. Many belong to the Delphinidae (ocean dolphin) family, including the orca; others live in rivers. Collectively, there are approximately 90 species of cetaceans, the order comprising whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Scientists analyzing the dolphin brain have determined that, like us, they possess a very complex neocortex — a region of the brain linked to awareness, emotions, problem-solving and other human-like abilities. Further, the limbic (emotional) system in some species is even more complex than humans.

These sensitive creatures have made the headlines in the past few months. An endangered orca known as Tahlequah mourned the tragic loss of her baby, carrying her dead calf for a record 17 days and 1,000 miles on what some have deemed a “tour of grief.”

Shortly following Tahlequah’s tragedy, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the species of orca on the West coast of the US that has become critically endangered. The suit alleged that the agency has neglected to establish habitat protection for the orcas. With only 75 of these orcas left, the population is the lowest it has been in 30 years.

Meanwhile, a combination of factors is threatening the very survival of these animals.

Genetics and Pollution

A recent study published in the journal Science delivers a serious warning as to the likelihood that dolphins and other marine mammals could be extirpated by pollutants. The discovery concerns an evolutionary change to DNA approximately 53 million years ago, which makes cetaceans particularly sensitive and therefore vulnerable.

Their bodies underwent various gradual changes during this evolutionary period. One of these changes was the alteration of DNA that codes for a particular enzyme known as PON1. Scientists believe the enzyme’s metabolic processes were no longer needed for a life underwater. Terrestrial mammals, by contrast, maintained the intact DNA and its enzyme, which humans have to this day.

But 53 million years later, the genetic change has become marine mammals’ Achilles’ heel, thanks to human invention. The enzyme has a second function — an ability to defend against neurotoxins found in pesticides. Without PON1, these animals are unable to break down the neurotoxin and can be poisoned.

Dolphins and other sea creatures with the PON1 problem are thus defenseless against agricultural runoff containing pesticides. Part of the reason the endangered infant orcas off the coast of California are having trouble is this kind of pollution. Marine mammals by the Florida coast are at risk as well, as scientists sampling waterways have found significant levels of chlorpyrifos pesticide contamination.

Dolphins have also been disappearing from areas around the globe they once inhabited, such as off the coast of Argentina. There, where dolphins were once common, only “a single resident population” is believed to be left. Heavy metal contamination and overfishing are likely contributors the decline. Elevated levels of lead, zinc, copper and cadmium have been found in mollusks, crustaceans and sea lions, as well as elevated levels of mercury, cadmium, zinc and copper in bottlenose dolphins. Metals pass from mother’s milk to the baby, resulting in the newborn dolphin having a weakened immune system and a lower probability of survival. The bottlenose dolphin is believed to be a common species globally and consequently people are less concerned about it than they should be; in certain localities these dolphins are quietly disappearing, as along the Argentinian coast. Scientists warn that the Argentina study “provides an example of how the failure to recognize local population declines can threaten the national (and eventually the international) status of a once common marine species.”

To be sure, dolphins are facing similar toxic threats around the world. While metal pollution off the coast of Argentina is assumed to have resulted from decades-old mine waste, it is by no means unique to South America. Scientists examining the waters of Lake Geneva, Switzerland, discovered high levels of toxic metals including bromine, lead, mercury and cadmium. The toxins came from plastics, some of which had been banned or restricted decades ago, indicating the toxins remain in the environment for years. Plastic pollution is especially pervasive in oceans that dolphins inhabit – estimated at 150 million metric tons, with 8 million more tons added annually. Tellingly, a Malaysian dolphin was found dead after digesting nine pounds of plastic bags.

Chemicals can have a lasting and sometimes irreversible impact on the environment. Without containment, poisons that were banned years ago seep out of landfills, into streams and oceans, permanently contaminating water. For some species, a death sentence has already been passed. Change has come too late for the orca variety of dolphin, also known as the killer whale. This is the sad revelation recently published in the journal Science regarding polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and orcas. PCBs banned more than 30 years ago have leached into the oceans, and killer whales as apex predators are “the most PCB contaminated mammals in the world,” say the researchers, who found some of the killer whales had 1,300 milligrams per kilo of PCBs in their blubber – 50 milligrams per kilo has been shown in previous research to be sufficient to cause infertility and serious immune system problems. As with metals, mothers pass the PCBs on to their babies through milk. The researchers predict that “PCB-mediated effects on reproduction and immune function threaten the long-term viability of [more than] 50% of the world’s killer whale populations.” They forecast a population collapse of orcas near industrialized regions, as well as in regions where orcas feed on larger prey. In short, half of the world’s orcas will be gone in just a few decades.

Some dolphin species are already very close to extinction. The Yangtze River dolphin, also known as “baiji,” has lived in the river for 20 million years. There were thousands in the 1950s, but in the year 2000, there were a mere 13. By 2006, scientists pronounced the species extinct after an unsuccessful six-week hunt by conservationists. Its current status is either extinct or near extinction — in 2016, some amateurs believe they may have seen a baiji, although they are not certain. The baiji would be the first dolphin made extinct by humans, in this case through pollution, dam-building, overfishing and boat traffic.

Dolphins face threats from climate change as well. Twelve dolphins were washed ashore in one week this summer in Florida, as a result of a red tide disasterdue in part to rising temperatures, with six killed in 24 hours. Such numbers have usually been an annual loss in the past.

Dolphins face a particular and cruel peril in Japan. The town of Taiji holds an annual dolphin “drive hunt” in which more than 1,000 dolphins are massacred each year. Hunters find a pod of dolphins and first create a clamor to disrupt the dolphins’ sonar, upsetting the dolphins and driving them into a cove, where they are then killed one by one, as the water in the cove turns red.

Even when dolphins are captured and kept in captivity, they react to their surroundings.

Dolphin Intelligence and the Future of the Animal Population

That dolphins are highly emotional is well-known. Peter — a dolphin kept in captivity after being moved to a smaller facility and permanently separated from the regular keeper he loved — fell into depression. Dolphins do not breathe air automatically the way humans do; each breath must be made consciously. A dolphin who has lost the will to live does not swim to the surface for his next breath. This was the fate of Peter; imprisoned and friendless at the new facility, he did not swim up for air and was found lifeless on the tank floor.

The emotional intelligence of dolphins reveals that trauma and separation will hurt dolphin families for years to come. The bloody waters of Taiji might hold the carcasses but not all the casualties. The many Peters of the world, having lost loved ones forever, can also lose the will to live.

At the 2010 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, scientists pondered the ethical and policy implications of dolphin intelligence. Neurobiologist Lori Marino argued that they may be Earth’s second-smartest creature. One can only agree.

A philosopher at the meeting proposed that dolphins perhaps ought to be considered “nonhuman persons.” He marvels at how, in addition to emotions and self-awareness, dolphins have personalities, exhibit self-control and even treat others ethically.

If a dolphin species becomes extinct, we lose not only a beautiful animal but a society and its culture. Dolphin habitat often spans the seas of many countries. Preserving them at home only to have them slaughtered on another shore is heart-wrenching. Preserving them abroad only to see them poisoned by pollution here is equally tragic. Countries must work together to ensure the survival of dolphins who swim beyond our borders, particularly as risks are compounded by climate change and pollution. The killing of whales for commercial purposes has been banned for many years. At the very least, this can be extended to their cousins now that we know they are under threat.

Pesticide use has to be regulated, particularly along the coasts to minimize PON1-related neurotoxic poisoning. Allowing a 53-million-year-old Achilles’ heel to be shot with the dart of human invention would be a tragedy. Minimizing plastic pollution is essential to dolphins as well. Preventing further PCB leakage into the oceans must also be a priority to save the orca populations, half of which are already facing collapse due to PCB-poisoning.

We have already witnessed the long-lasting effects of chemical runoff, from the decades-old plastic-derived toxins in Lake Geneva, to the 30-year-old PCBs seeping into oceans around the world. Once waters are contaminated, no one can go back. It is already too late for some orcas. Consequently, while we still can, we must prevent further contamination.

If nations can work together to minimize ocean pollution and affect laws to prevent chemical runoff, perhaps then Tahlequah and her fellow orcas will have greater success with the next generation of calves, and our children and grandchildren will continue to know the pleasure of seeing an orca or a bottlenose dolphin leap magnificently from the ocean.

Author’s note: this article first appeared in Truthout.org.

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Does the Latest IPCC Report Offer Hope For Earth

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Hurricanes and storms on both sides of the Atlantic appeared to encore the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.  It had just concluded the finalization of a special report on the impact of a 1.5 degree Celsius global warming above preindustrial levels.  Meeting in Incheon, South Korea (October 1-5), its three working groups of experts and government officials have huddled and jousted to strike a consensus on what will be necessary to restrict warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius when the globe is already up one degree.  What will earth be like with this level of warmth and what will happen if we fail?

Two earlier versions (January and June 2018) of the report were depressing to frightening.  They were made available for about a month for comment by experts and interested parties.  The real problem is a narrow window because human activity in the world emits 40 billion tons of CO2 per year — about 90 times the emission from volcanoes.  At some point, there will be enough in the atmosphere where the 1.5 degree rise will be a foregone conclusion.  While guesswork to some extent, it appears we have about 12 years before we exhaust the ‘carbon budget’; if we accept a 2C rise the date is 2045.

The tone may have been softened in the second report, but there is ‘substantial’ certainty the 2 degrees C target of the 2015 Paris Agreement, once considered safe, would be dangerous for humanity.  As the agreement also required governments to pursue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C, the remit to IPCC was to prepare a report comparing the consequences of the two alternatives as well as the feasibility and effort required to limit the rise to the lower figure.  The final report released on Oct 8, 2018 reviews 30,000 publications.

The fact that parts of the earth are already warmer than the 2 degree C figure and the results are observable should be a driver for governments.  In the Arctic, for example, where temperatures have risen up to 3 degrees C, the effort has seen chunks of icebergs breaking off and polar bears having difficulty in catching seals because of fewer blowholes — where they normally wait in ambush.  Current temperatures are higher than they ever have been in the past two millennia.

For low-lying Pacific Islands the 1.5C goal is critical for many there would lose habitat and some islands are expected to disappear under the 2C target.  The Maldives in the Indian ocean are partly under water, and some Pacific islands have already disappeared as average world sea levels rise by 3 mm a year.  Yet Tuvalu has become an exception and its land area, studied from 1971 to 2014, is growing.  Eight of its nine atolls are found to be still rising, increasing the “area by 29 percent, even though sea levels in the country rose by twice the global average.”

Even so the consequences of the earth already being 1 degree C higher than preindustrial times are apparent in the  proliferation of extreme weather events.  Unduly powerful hurricanes as in Puerto Rico or Houston, record-breaking forest fires in the U.S. and Australia, monsoons in South India this year that in Kerala have been the worst in this century, and the record temperatures in northern Europe are a few examples.  Last week the 155 mph Category 5 Hurricane Michael, 5 mph short of Category 6, devastated the Florida panhandle and continued its destruction onward into Georgia and beyond.  It was the strongest to hit this part of Florida since records began in 1881.  On the other side of the Atlantic within a week, storms and hurricanes battered Europe:  Hurricane Leslie in Portugal, storm Callum in Britain and heavy rains in France causing flash floods in the Aude region of south-west France.  All of which can be expected to worsen as the earth’s mean temperature rises, increasing in both frequency and intensity.

The IPCC report presents four pathways (p.19 Executive Summary) each with net zero CO2 emissions within the next quarter century.  The least interventionist scenario utilizes only afforestation to remove CO2.  The report is optimistic in demonstrating synergies (p.27) with sustainable development goals.  That CO2 removal technologies known as direct air capture (DAC) are also being developed successfully adds to the optimism.

At the same time the warnings are clear.  All the options require a rapid decarbonization of the fuel s:upply i.e. no fossil fuels — coal just about gone by 2050 and three-quarters of the energy from renewables (p.19 after four pathways graphs).  The risks for fisheries and coral reefs will remain high (p.13) even with the 1.5C scenario and coastal populations and farming will be worse off than now.  Severe weather consequences can be expected to worsen.  But all that is the world to be.  Hence the argument for the most interventionist scenarios where the atmospheric CO2 is eventually reduced.

For all this the need to act now is clear in the facts and numbers.

Author’s Note:  An earlier version of this article appeared on counterpunch.org.

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