Do you trust world leaders to combat climate change? | The Tylt
Do you trust world leaders to combat climate change?
From loss of life and wildlife to insurance claims to tourism, there is not one aspect of life immune to the impact of the 2020 bushfires in Australia. According to the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Wright, not only has the fire been accelerated by severe drought, but it will itself have a negative impact on the world's climate.
“These fires will have an effect on the earth’s climate, they’re certainly having an effect on the earth’s CO2 concentrations,” said David Bowman, a professor of pyrogeography and director of the fire center at the University of Tasmania. “The forests are so stressed and damaged they may never recover.”
Although Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison has set up a $2 billion recovery fund to support those affected by the bushfire, many critics are dissatisfied—to say the least—with the PM's reaction to the catastrophe. Richard Glover writes in the Washington Post that Morrison's ill-timed vacation to Hawaii, his lackluster response and his seeming inability to grasp the scale of the disaster are all due to one the thing: a refusal to accept climate change and the steps necessary to combat it.
It’s a measure of how keen he is to avoid discussion of climate change and its role in increasing the ferocity of these fires. To admit that these fires are unprecedented in their scale, timing and intensity would be to admit that Australia is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. And that would, in turn, put pressure on his government to be a leader, rather than a laggard, when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.
But in 2016, 196 countries did come together to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celcius above preindustrial temperatures via the Paris Accords. Although some would agree actions since the accords are hardly acceptable, others would argue their very existence is a step in the right direction. Per National Geographic's Kieran Mulvaney:
Under the agreement, each signatory submits its own national plan, setting targets for emissions reductions and specifying pathways by which it aims to meet those targets.
World leaders are capable to creating sweeping change, but doing so takes time and careful decision-making. The signatories of the Paris Accords have all set their own goals for limiting their respective countries' emissions, and theres no question some are performing better than others when it comes to creating and reaching said goals. According to National Geographic, Morocco, The Gambia and India are performing the best. Mulvaney writes:
India has emerged as a global leader in renewable energy, and in fact it is investing more in them than it is in fossil fuels. Having established a goal of generating 40 percent of its power through renewables by 2030, its progress has been so rapid that it could easily reach that target a decade early, so there is every opportunity for India to increase that target.
Even when world leaders come together to discuss the impacts of climate change and how to put a stop to the ongoing crisis, they fail to make substantive change. Most recently, the 2019 United Nations’ COP25 climate conference ended in utter failure by most accounts. As New York Magazine's David Wallace-Wells says of the 25th COP:
...judging by the only metric that matters — carbon emissions, which continue to rise — the conference followed 24 consecutive failures. Emissions set a new record in 2018, and are poised to set another again in 2019.
"Once again, no progress has been made to bring countries more in line with the 1.5 degrees target of the Paris Agreement,” said Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the European Parliament who has been part of the EU’s delegation at the negotiations. “Very strict rules are an absolute necessity and old untrustworthy CO2-credits have to be scrapped. That has not happened in Madrid, the summit ended without a deal.”
The planet is running out of time for world leaders to take action; COP25 and Australia PM Scott Morrison are symptomatic of a large-scale reluctance to change.
It seems the interests of many world leaders stand in opposition to things like reducing emissions. According to the New York Times, "at the current pace, global temperatures are set to rise beyond 3 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels by the end of the century." World leaders have failed in multiple respects thus far, but they will not have a choice but to face reality in the immediate future. Per the Time'sSomini Sengupta, there is still hope thanks to activism around the world.
“The time window is closing and it’s dramatically short for what we have to do,” said Achim Steiner, the head of the United Nations Development Program. “The protests are helpful because they show national leaders in their societies, in their countries, that the politics of climate change is changing and it is adding momentum and pressure to act.”
No matter what their interests are currently, world leaders will have to act responsibly when it comes to climate change, or likely lose the privilege to lead to others the people of the world can trust.