Climate change: why are we waiting to act?

Governments from all over the world are meeting at COP23 to move forward in the fight against global warming 

Once again, governments from around the world will meet at the COP, the global climate conference, to discuss how to reduce the effects of climate change on the planet.

From November 6 to 13, representatives from almost 200 countries will meet in the German city of Bonn, where the headquarters of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are located.

This Convention was signed more than 25 years ago and, since then, every year political representatives from around the world come together to assess the consequences of global warming, see how it is affecting each country and what measures should be taken to deal with it. 

What happened in Paris? 

The COP23 in Bonn will come two years after the famous Paris Climate Conference, where a “historic agreement” was reached among the countries present: to limit the global temperature rise to 2ºC by the year 2100.

To achieve this, countries have committed themselves to reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases: these are gases from industries, automobiles, airplanes … that accumulate in the atmosphere and retain even more heat.

To date, 169 countries out of a total of 197 have ratified the Paris Agreement. The problem is that not all countries have complied with the agreement. For example, United States president Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing from the agreement, which was signed by the previous president, Barack Obama.

For Trump, the economic growth of his country is more important than investing in the future of the planet.

Why is it so difficult to reach an agreement? 

If it’s difficult to reach an agreement between several people, imagine getting many countries to agree on something, even saving the planet.

On one hand, there are the individual interests of each country: reducing emissions means reducing the production rate of factories and the distribution of products, and this slows down the growth of the economy.

This is one of the main reasons why some countries are reluctant to comply with climate agreements. Also, investing in cleaner and more sustainable new technologies is expensive … although, in the long run, it’s worth it.

On the other hand, there is a conflict between rich countries and poor countries. Much of the current pollution has been caused by the richest countries, which have more industries and factories. Therefore, developing countries do not accept a reduction of their emissions: they feel that they also have the right to strengthen their economy before slowing it down.

China has achieved a very high level of economic growth, but at a very high price: it is the most polluting country in the world. (Reuters)

The problem is that, if we do not start taking measures together, there will soon be no planet for anyone.

We must act now! 

Despite the fact that some people deny it, climate change is a reality and its effects are very visible all over the world: sea levels rising, temperatures increasing and the characteristics of extreme weather events are changing.

According to some scientists, limiting the temperature increase to 2ºC should keep safe the regions that are at risk due to rising sea levels. However, other researchers say that it should have been further limited, to 1.5ºC.

The consequences go beyond heatwaves in October or having to give up some foods because harvests are delayed. Natural disasters are becoming more violent, the lack of rainfall forces many people to emigrate (climate refugees) and there are entire countries that could disappear, such as the islands of Tuvalu.

When we talk about climate change, we must think about the long-term future and everyone must be involved: governments, companies, institutions and us, civil society.

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