Global warming and climate change is looked at in this section of the global issues web site. Introduced are some of the effects of climate change. In addition, this section attempts to provide insights into what governments, companies, international institutions, and other organizations are attempting to do about this issue, as well as the challenges they face. Some of the major conferences in recent years are also discussed.
32 articles on “Climate Change and Global Warming” and 1 related issue:
The climate is changing. The earth is warming up, and there is now overwhelming scientific consensus that it is happening, and human-induced. With global warming on the increase and species and their habitats on the decrease, chances for ecosystems to adapt naturally are diminishing.
Many are agreed that climate change may be one of the greatest threats facing the planet. Recent years show increasing temperatures in various regions, and/or increasing extremities in weather patterns.
This section looks at what causes climate change, what the impacts are and where scientific consensus currently is.
The world mostly agrees that something needs to be done about global warming and climate change. The first stumbling block, however, has been trying to get an agreement on a framework. In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meterological Organization (WMO) to assess the scientific knowledge on global warming. The IPCC concluded in 1990 that there was broad international consensus that climate change was human-induced. That report led way to an international convention for climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by over 150 countries at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. This section looks at this Convention and some of the main principles in it.
The United States plus a few other countries, and many large corporations, have opposed climate change treaties seemingly afraid of profit impacts if they have to make substantial changes to how they do business.
However, as more climate change science has emerged over the years, many businesses are accepting this and even asking their governments for more action so that there is quick clarification on the new rules of the game so they can get on with their businesses.
This section explores some of those fears to see if they are justified or not.
Many are afraid that tackling climate change is going to be too costly. But increasingly, studies are showing action will not just be cheaper than inaction, but could actually result in economic, environmental and even health benefits, while improving sustainability.
For many years, large, influential businesses and governments have been against the idea of global warming. Many have poured a lot of resources into discrediting what has generally been accepted for a long time as real.
Now, the mainstream is generally worried about climate change impacts and the discourse seems to have shifted accordingly. Some businesses that once engaged in disinformation campaigns have even changed their opinions, some even requesting governments for regulation and direction on this issue.
However, a few influential companies and organizations are still attempting to undermine climate change action and concerns. Will all this mean a different type of spin and propaganda with attempts at green washing and misleading information becoming the norm, or will there now be major shift in attitudes to see concrete solutions being proposed and implemented?
For a number of years, there have been concerns that climate change negotiations will essentially ignore a key principle of climate change negotiation frameworks: the common but differentiated responsibilities.
Realizing that greenhouse emissions remain in the atmosphere for a very long time, this principle recognizes that historically:
Industrialized nations have emitted far more greenhouse gas emissions (even if some developing nations are only now increasing theirs);
Rich countries therefore face the biggest responsibility and burden for action to address climate change; and
Rich countries therefore must support developing nations adapt—through financing and technology transfer, for example.
This notion of climate justice is typically ignored by many rich nations and their mainstream media, making it easy to blame China, India and other developing countries for failures in climate change mitigation negotiations.
Development expert, Martin Khor, calculated that taking historical emissions into account, the rich countries owe a carbon debt because they have already used more than their fair quota of emissions.
Yet, by 2050 when certain emission reductions are needed by, their reduced emissions will still add up to be go over their fair share:
However, rather than continue down the path of unequal development, industrialized nations can help pay off their carbon debt by truly helping emerging countries develop along a cleaner path, such as through the promised-but-barely-delivered technology transfer, finance, and capacity building.
So far however, rich nations have done very little within the Kyoto protocol to reduce emissions by any meaningful amount, while they are all for negotiating a follow on treaty that brings more pressure to developing countries to agree to emissions targets.
In effect, the more there will be delay the more the poor nations will have to save the Earth with their sacrifices (and if it works, as history shows, the rich and powerful will find a way to rewrite history to claim they were the ones that saved the planet).
Flexibility mechanisms were defined in the Kyoto Protocol as different ways to achieve emissions reduction as part of the effort to address climate change issues. These fall into the following categories: Emissions Trading, Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism.
However, these have been highly controversial as they were mainly included on strong US insistence and to keep the US in the treaty (even though the US eventually pulled out). Some of the mechanisms face criticism for not actually leading to a reduction in emissions, for example.
A mechanism suggested for tackling climate change and warming has been the idea of using Carbon Sinks to soak up carbon dioxide. To aid in this, reforestation, or planting of new forests, have been suggested. This is a popular strategy for the logging industry and nations with large forests interests. While there may be some potential in this solution, it cannot be effective on its own. This is because it legitimizes continued destruction of old-growth and pristine forests which are rich ecosystems and have an established biodiversity base (albeit shrinking now) that naturally maintain the environment (at no cost!). Creating new forest areas would require the creation of entire ecosystems. It is also criticized for being a quick fix that does not tackle the root causes effectively and does not lead to, or promote actual emissions reduction.
It seems there has been a recent interest in associating climate change/global warming with “over population” and that countries such as China and India have to do more to help contain global warming.
Yet rich countries have a lot to do themselves. There were agreed reasons why developing countries were exempt from initial greenhouse gas emission targets: it was the emissions from rich countries that accumulated in the atmosphere for so long to trigger climate change.
One type of ecosystem that perhaps is neglected more than any other is perhaps also the richest in biodiversity—the coral reefs.
Coral reefs are useful to the environment and to people in a number of ways. However, all around the world, much of the world’s marine biodiversity face threats from human and activities as well as natural. It is feared that very soon, many reefs could die off.
Energy security is a growing concern for rich and emerging nations alike. The past drive for fossil fuel energy has led to wars, overthrow of democratically elected leaders, and puppet governments and dictatorships.
Leading nations admit we are addicted to oil, but investment into alternatives has been lacking, or little in comparison to fossil fuel investments.
As the global financial crisis takes hold and awareness of climate change increases, more nations and companies are trying to invest in alternatives. But will the geopolitics remain the same?
The Arctic region has long been considered international territory. Five countries—Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Norway, Russia, and the United States—share a border with the frozen Arctic Ocean. Some of these nations have claimed parts of the region to be their territory.
Underlying the interests in the area are potentially vast oil, gas and other resources, as well as the opening up of lucrative passages for trade and economic activity as climate change reduces the amount of ice in the region. As a result, these nations have been vying for dominance in the Arctic.
Climate change provides an additional threat — not just to the local wildlife and indigenous populations that are already seeing their surroundings change rapidly, but to the rest of the planet, too. While retreating sea ice may open up shipping routes, the regions ability to reflect sunlight back into space would diminish, further increasing climate change effects.
Research has shown that air pollutants from fossil fuel use make clouds reflect more of the sun’s rays back into space. This leads to an effect known as global dimming whereby less heat and energy reaches the earth. At first, it sounds like an ironic savior to climate change problems. However, it is believed that global dimming caused the droughts in Ethiopia in the 1970s and 80s where millions died, because the northern hemisphere oceans were not warm enough to allow rain formation. Global dimming is also hiding the true power of global warming. By cleaning up global dimming-causing pollutants without tackling greenhouse gas emissions, rapid warming has been observed, and various human health and ecological disasters have resulted, as witnessed during the European heat wave in 2003, which saw thousands of people die.
An overview of the Climate Change Conference (also known as COP 20), held in Lima, Peru in December 2014.
While it seemed like it was a successful meeting, because developing nations were committed to drawing up their own plans for emissions reductions for the first time, a number of important issues were left undecided such as how financing would work.
This page is an overview of the Lima Climate conference.
An overview of the Climate Change Conference (also known as COP 17), held in Durban, South Africa in December 2011.
Predictably and sadly, the same issues have resurfaced: lack of media coverage, West stalling on doing anything trying to blame India and China instead, lack of funding, disagreement on how to address it, etc.
Geopolitical threats (real and imaginary) quickly focus a lot of political will and money is easily found to mobilize military forces when needed.
The economy also takes center stage as the current pressing issue, while climate change is easily deferred, in the hopes that the West can let China and India pick up the burden of addressing emissions even though they have not contributed to the historical build up of emissions that have started the recent changes in the climate.
This page is an overview of the Durban conference.
An overview of the Climate Change Conference (also known as COP 16), held in Cancún, Mexico in the December 2010.
This conference came a year after the Copenhagen conference which promised so much but offered so little. It also came in the wake of WikiLeaks’ revelations of how the US in particular tried to cajole various countries to support an accord that served US interests rather than the world’s.
What resulted was an agreement that seems much watered down, even an almost reversal, from original aims and spirit of climate change mitigation. In effect, the main polluters (the industrialized nations) who should have borne the brunt of any emission reduction targets, have managed to reduce their commitments while increasing those of the developing countries; a great global warming swindle if any!
An overview of the Climate Change Conference (also known as COP 14), held in Poznań, Poland, at the beginning of December, 2008. As with past conferences, this too was not without its controversies. For example, while the Adaptation Fund was launched the funding of it caused lots of disagreements. The conference came at a time when Europe seemed to weaken their usually strong stance on climate change action and on news that in recent years, emissions from industrialized nations had risen.
The UN conference on climate change held in Bali, Indonesia in December 2007 led to a final agreement known as the “Bali Roadmap”. The Bali Roadmap outlined a new negotiating process to be concluded by 2009 to feed into a post-Kyoto (i.e. a post-2012) international agreement on climate change. The Roadmap included a decision to launch an Adaptation Fund as well as further decisions on technology transfer and on reducing emissions from deforestation. However, as with past climate conferences, this was not without its controversies, especially Europe and developing countries’ criticisms of the US position and negotiation tactics.
December 2005 saw the eleventh session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (or, COP11 for short). At the same time, the first Meeting of the Parties of the Protocol (MOP 1) took place. These meetings attempted to advance discussions on the future emission reductions and ways to help developing countries. The US walked out at one point of the meeting, but were eventually convinced to come back to the conference. The result, some felt, was a slightly weakened text, but something to build upon for the future. Developing countries were also discussed, but issues of climate justice and equity seemed to be missing once again.
December 2004 saw the tenth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (or, COP10 for short). This marked the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol. Countries were to discuss adaption measures, and the entry of the Kyoto Protocol into force. In addition, some discussion on post-Kyoto was also attempted.
October 23 to November 1, 2002 saw the eighth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (or, COP8 for short). Leading up to this conference there has still been little progress on reducing emissions.
October 29 to November 9, 2001 saw the seventh session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (or, COP7 for short). The purpose of the meeting was to agree legal text covering outstanding technical aspects of the political agreement reached in Bonn in July 2001 on how to implement the Kyoto Protocol. While an agreement resulted, there are still concerns there will be little impact on emissions as a result.
November 13 to November 24, 2000 saw the sixth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (or, COP6 for short). Each COP meeting is where nations meet to evaluate the accords and compliance with meeting emissions reduction targets. This one was intended to wrap up three years of negotiations on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Instead though, the talks pretty much collapsed.
November 2 - November 13, 1998 in Buenos Aires, Argentina the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held. There were many issues that still needed to be discussed, especially on the trading of Carbon emissions and equity between the rich and developing nations.
1997, at the Conference of Parties III (COP3), Kyoto, Japan, the Kyoto conference on climate change took place. There, developed countries agreed to specific targets for cutting their emissions of greenhouse gases. A general framework was defined for this, with specifics to be detailed over the next few years. This became known as the Kyoto Protocol. The US proposed to just stabilize emissions and not cut them at all, while the European Union called for a 15% cut. In the end, there was a trade off, and industrialized countries were committed to an overall reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases to 5.2% below 1990 levels for the period 2008 - 2012. (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its 1990 report that a 60% reduction in emissions was needed...) As with the following COP meetings, there was enormous media propaganda by affected big businesses and by countries such as the U.S. who were openly hostile to the treaty. In fact one of the first things George Bush did when he came to power was to oppose the Kyoto Protocol.
Scientists believe that Global Warming will lead to a weaker Ozone layer, because as the surface temperature rises, the stratosphere (the Ozone layer being found in the upper part) will get colder, making the natural repairing of the Ozone slower.
Environmental issues are also a major global issue. Humans depend on a sustainable and healthy environment, and yet we have damaged the environment in numerous ways. This section introduces other issues including biodiversity, climate change, animal and nature conservation, population, genetically modified food, sustainable development, and more.