If we needed yet another reminder that global climate change is one of the most pressing issues of modern times, the UN’s recently released report offers us a pertinent example. This report condemns our efforts to slow down current rates of global warming. It strongly criticises global measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, concluding that if no significant progressions are seen, there will be grave consequences. If carbon dioxide emissions remain at present levels then the planet will witness a 2°C rise in temperature by 2036.
The pledges made by nations to the UN are officially known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and will underpin the global treaty on climate change which is due to be ratified in Paris next month. However, the treaty has easily lent itself to criticism, as claims have been made that it falls substantially short of curbing global warming by 2°C by 2100. Ed Davey, the UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation: “I’m not expecting, I regret, the commitments we will see in the Paris agreement will get us to 2°C unfortunately.” Moreover, the UN has stated that even if countries are able to successfully adhere to their pledges, annual global emissions will rise to 43 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.
The treaty has drawn criticism from other key figures. Alice Bows-Larkin of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research based in Manchester denounced the INDCs: “I think it is clear that the INDCs will fall well short of what is required for any reasonable probability of avoiding 2°C.” She was also critical of the treaty’s lack of any sort of strategic long-term vision: “….what happens after 2030 is crucial, too. We can’t assume that emissions will immediately decline.”
This rise in temperature will prove critical according to scientists, unleashing environmental destruction on an unprecedented scale. Such devastating impacts will include mass migration, superstorms, and severe drought. Poorer countries will be particularly affected. Furthermore, recent opinion polls have demonstrated how seriously developing nations are viewing the issue of climate change. The majority of respondents to polls (70%) in Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ghana, the Philippines, and Uganda expressed serious concern that climate change would personally affect them during their lifetimes.
Nevertheless, the UN’s chief Climate Negotiator, Christiana Figueres, stressed that the INDCs would be a step in the right direction and serve as a building block to further progression. This being said, it is easy to be sceptical about their effectiveness when faced with the evidence which paints a bleak picture for the future. Even if the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions are made, we must expect a 2°C rise in the global temperature by 2036.