Since 1979, when the first World Climate Conference (WCC) took place, multiple conferences were organised to negotiate a global response for combating climate change. The last convention took place in Paris, from 30 November to 12 December 2015. At the UN Climate Change Conference the Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus of all participating parties.
Paris Climate Agreement
“The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” (UNFCC)
The Agreement was ratified by 186 Parties of 197 Parties to the Convention. But, unlike its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, which sets commitment targets that have legal force, the Paris Agreement, with its emphasis on consensus-building, allows for voluntary and nationally determined targets. The specific climate goals are thus politically encouraged, rather than legally bound. So, none of the countries that have signed the agreement have any obligation to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Below 1.5 °C
Preventing a 1.5°C increase in global average temperature doesn’t mean the temperatures will not rise by more than 1.5°C. “In many regions, warming has already surpassed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. More than one-fifth of all humans live in regions that have already seen warming greater than 1.5 degrees Celsius in at least one season. Climate-related risks were found to be generally higher at lower latitudes and for disadvantaged people and communities.” (NASA)
With a 1.5°C increase in temperature the effects of global warming, that we already see now, will intensify and some ecological systems, that are already struggling, might cross points of no return.
“Why is it necessary and even vital to maintain the global temperature increase below 1.5°C versus higher levels? Adaptation will be less difficult. Our world will suffer less negative impacts on intensity and frequency of extreme events, on resources, ecosystems, biodiversity, food security, cities, tourism, and carbon removal” (IPCC)
By staying below 2°C global warming we can prevent major ecological collapse and prevent intensification of extreme weather events, that now happen rarely.
According to NASA: “At 2 degrees Celsius warming, the deadly heatwaves India and Pakistan saw in 2015 may occur annually… Arctic land regions will see cold extremes warm by as much as 5.5 degrees Celsius at 1.5 degrees Celsius warming or less, while a warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, cold extremes will be up to 8 degrees Celsius warmer. Cold spells will also be shorter.”
Without keeping the temperature increase below 2°C we risk getting to a dangerous irreversible tipping point that will throw our planet into a warming feedback loop which we cannot stop.
Dangerous climate feedback loop
As the ground in the polar regions is warming much faster as expected the thawing of permafrost started earlier than predicted. The now frozen permafrost contains massive amounts of greenhouse gases that once released into the atmosphere will fuel global warming even more. This can trigger a potentially unstoppable warming feedback loop.
A closing window. Global summits and their (nonexistent) influence on carbon emissions.
The UN report from December 2018 shows a growing gap between the greenhouse gas emissions reduction needed to stay on course to limit warming to less than 2°C. Even though there has been an increase of renewable energy production we are still off-course when it comes to phasing out fossil fuels. Coal plants are retiring but new ones are taking their place, increasing the coal capacity globally.
Even though multiple conferences where organized for discussing climate change actions, none of them had an impact on the emission of greenhouse gases.