By Sakshi Jain
Goal 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals was to ‘take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts’. Climate change encompasses within it global warming, which is mainly a surface temperature increase phenomenon, as well as the other changes that are caused by increasing greenhouse gases. The causes of climate change vary from solar irradiation to human activities.
While human activity is often blamed as one of the major causes of climate change, the exact contribution of human activities to climate change remains disputed, with some claiming that climate change is inevitable and is largely caused by natural factors, but that it has been exacerbated due to carbon dioxide emissions from industrialization. Factors such as land use, deforestation, and ozone depletion can affect microclimates in the areas where these problems are prevalent, and can hence contribute to bigger changes to the climate.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) does well in acknowledging that it is the main international forum for negotiating and formulating the global response to climate change. One way to ensure long term commitment to stopping – or at least to slowing down – the climate change process is to introduce climate change into the national conversation, and integrate climate change measures into national policies. Focussing the national conversation on climate change will increase awareness on the gravity of the issue, and inculcate a feeling of belonging to the environment. This will in turn increase accountability towards the issue, and raise individual and institutional capacity on adaptation, impact reduction and early warnings.
According to the UN, the three main ways of solving the crisis are through mitigation and adaptation, using government resources and energy innovation. The process of combating climate change needs to take local solutions to disaster management into account. The UN also proposes to implement a commitment undertaken by developed countries to jointly mobilise USD 100 billion annually till 2020 to help fulfill the needs of developing countries. This includes funding for mitigation actions and transparency.
Mitigation means reducing the flow of heat trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to avoid dangerous human interference with the climate system, and to stabilise greenhouse gas levels in a time frame to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change. We also need to ensure sustainable and sufficient food production and economic development strategies.
Adaptation involves adjusting to the actual or expected climate changes. This reduces our vulnerability to the harmful effects of climate change, and helps us in making the most of the potential benefits associated with climate change.
How to work with
the scale of the problem
Even though climate change is a collective problem, as individuals, we can take steps to get in touch with our local governments to understand what the best steps are in our communities, and how we can make the biggest difference. Urban centres and local councils are at the frontline for adapting to climate change. National and international policy direction is important to set the tone of the solution, but most of the work is being done at the local level. Building flood or earthquake defences an improving water storage capabilities generally start as community efforts rather than national initiatives.
The biggest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions in the world have pledged to reduce their footprints, but we know that the most innovation we will see in slowing down climate change will come from individual entrepreneurs and small communities, rather than at national levels. Governments should do their best to provide recognition, resources and rewards to such efforts. The major contributors to our planet’s collective carbon footprint are China, the United States, India and the European Union. The three have committed to reducing their emissions in the next ten years, with the US promising a reduction of 26-28% by 2025 (compared to 2005) and the EU promising a reduction of 40% by 2030 (compared to 1990). Emerging market Mexico has promised a 25% cut by 2030.
Climate change is not a recent phenomenon, and some generations have adjusted to, and coped with changes in climates with varying degrees of success. One of the major problems in adjusting to climate change is the speed with which the changes take place. Since the Earth’s climate has been relatively stable for the past 12,000 years, we have become accustomed to it. The faster the climate changes, the tougher it will be be to adapt to it.
About our author:
Sakshi is an Economics and Finance graduate from the University of London (Lead College LSE). She is passionate about economics and politics, and is looking to make her career in international policymaking. Sakshi has lived in India and Singapore, and she is currently based in Dubai, U.A.E, where she is working with The Asian Banker. Always up for a challenge, she is a part of Toastmasters International and would love to catch up for a stimulating conversation over some good coffee.