Climate action planning strategies and debate has been riddled with shortsighted perspective, describing a future in terms of 2050 and at most 2100. But what is our legacy? How will humanity pass to be known in the long-term history? Futuristic world has been portrayed, in movies, as dystopian societies lead by environment destruction. There it comes the quintessential embodiment of Darwin’s natural selection and just being real, there are a lot of us who would not survive the first round of the Hunger Games, Divergent, Mad Max or Maze Runner conditions.
Seems like Sci-fi screen writers were on to something and not so far from a plausible reality. A recent controversial report studied a worst-case scenario, burning all fossil fuel, after 2100 and found that the sea-level rise will speed up to 100 feet only in the next 1,000 years. As stated by Anders Levermann, one of the authors of the report, “if we want to pass on cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kolkata Calcutta, Hamburg or New York as our future heritage, we need to avoid a tipping [point being reached] in East Antarctica…”.
Another wake up call among their findings is that ice sheets in West Antarctic will become unstable if carbon emissions continue at current levels for 60-80 years. This amount only represents 8% percent of the carbon emissions of all our current accessible fossil fuels. These findings present a sense of risk that highlights the urgency to start acting now.
One cannot stress enough the interlinkage between climate change, society disturbances, shocks to the food system and economies. Climate change has become a cultural issue that goes far beyond sea level rise. In order to avoid this fate, there are many who believe the UN climate negotiators need to set a mid-century target to decarbonize the global economy. In June, Uganda’s lead negotiator asserted that 48 of the world’s least developed nations believe that “Total emissions need to reach zero between 2060 and 2080.” In line with this, close to 130 countries have now come forward to support a long-term goal (LTG) in the Paris Agreement, to be decided upon on December.
Our global development paradigm is an impediment of ensuring a truly sustainable society. Duty doesn’t stop at our 2100 survival goals. We have to look forward to guaranteeing a planet ecosystem able to sustain future generations, our descendants. We have to be realistic about the scenario that is presented to us and try to reach as far as we can. There is a high expectation for the Paris Agreement because we are running out of time. We need to bring to the table everything that we can.
An ambitious agreement is needed, both in the long and short run. The pillars for a strong Paris agreement would include a north and a clear pathway that ensure we get there. Phasing out fossil fuels by 2050 should be the long-term goal for COP21 to stabilize the GHG emissions, maintain the warming under 2°C and prevent further disastrous climate-triggered events. This transition should be consistent with the fair effort sharing of responsibilities and capabilities of a country.
But an isolated agreement isn’t likely to get us there. You can’t just say you want to finish the paper on time before class, write an introduction and expect it to be ready when its due. Lately, countries have been submitting their emission reduction targets for 2030. We see what you are doing there, procrastinating with Netflix in the meantime. To cut deferment of our LTG, complimentary short-term goals should be established. Increased action is needed for 2025, “if the Paris meeting locks in present climate commitments for 2030, holding warming below 2 degrees could essentially become infeasible, and 1.5°C beyond reach” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.
There is no way we can attain concrete LTG, on time, without ambitious short-term goals in place. In fact LTF in absence of intermediate action leaves room for slacking. Commitments for 2025 should be increased along with a robust enforcement mechanism, the five-year cycles, for continuous improvement. Peak in global energy-related emissions can be achieved by enhancement of energy efficiency; banning the construction of least-efficient coal-fired power plants; increasing renewable energy investments; phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies to end-users by 2030; and reducing methane emissions, according to International Energy Alliance.
A decision such as this would prove to be beneficial not only for direct climate change risk reduction, but also for health and saving trillions of dollars for switching to greener cities. We can still change the end of the movie script. Lets see if we move closer to Utopia!