sunset on baltic seas

COP21 – The countdown and “all” you need to know

Climate change and all of the mobilisation, problems and political debates around it can be hard to understand and impossible to follow when you only have 24 hours every day. To make it a bit easier I collected all the information you will need in short portions to understand what’s going on before the next big climate summit in Paris. Getting informed is hard work but also an important part of modern activism.

What is climate change and what will happen if we do business as usual?

Climate change is simple by David Roberts and TED

A short history of climate summits via Wikipedia

  • First conference was in 1995 in Berlin, Germany
  • 1996: Geneva Switzerland – acceptance of scientific findings about climate change and call for legal-binding commitments
  • 1997: Kyoto Protocol – first document created to reduce emissions by developed/industrialised countries to 6-8% below 1990 levels between 2008 to 2012, most countries and Europe agreed
  • 1998: Buenos Aires – more detailed work on the Kyoto Protocol, two more countries agreed to reduce emissions
  • 2000: The Hague, Netherlands: discussion and disagreement about carbon “sinks” where the USA wanted to have their forests counted as negative emissions and so reduce the amount of emissions they would have to reduce
  • 2001: Bonn, Germany: G.W. Bush administration steps away from the Kyoto protocol, negotiations go on without them and agreements are made about financing, carbon sinks, emission trading and legal binding details
  • 2001: Marrakech – more detailed talk about the above topics and discussions about how to include developing countries
  • 2002: New Delhi – more detailed talks, to enforce the Kyoto Protocol 55% of the countries were needed as well as 55% of the worlds greenhouse gas emitters (Russia was the last country needed after USA and Australia lacked interest)
  • 2003-2004: more talk about supporting developing countries
  • 2005: Montreal – The Kyoto Protocol comes into force and plans are made to keep it beyond 2012
  • 2006-2008: More negotiations in exotic places around the world and politicians got criticised for assuming they are on Safaris rather than on serious negotiation visits
  •  2009: Copenhagen – the goal was to reach a global climate agreement for the time after 2012 but Copenhagen turned into a negotiation failure and a disappointment, mess and chaotic situation, no long-term agreements were made
  • 2010: Cancún – a lot of talk but not many agreements, all parties agreed that 2˚C is an important limit and emissions should peak soon
  • 2011: Durban, South Africa – agreement on legally binding agreement till 2015 and a 100 billion dollar fund/year for poor countries to cope with the effects of climate change
  • 2012-2014: more detailed talk but not much progress

Since the first talks in Berlin and after the failure of the Kyoto Protocol not much has happened at the climate conferences. All eyes and hopes are focused on the 2015 meeting in Paris where a legally binding agreement should be found. If this won’t happen we will be again playing around while climate change is taking over the planet.

What happens at 1.5˚C?

2˚C global temperature rise is called the threshold for critical danger but oceans will be rising and are rising already. At 1.5˚C the first pacific islands and countries like the Netherlands will see sea levels rising dangerously high already.

A new report explores the impact of climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia and finds that warming of close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial times is already locked into Earth’s atmospheric system by past and predicted greenhouse gas emissions. – World Bank

The report warns that as temperatures rise, heat extremes on par with the heat waves in the United States in 2012 and Russia in 2010 will become more common. Melting permafrost will release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that will drive more warming in a dangerous feedback loop. Forests, including the Amazon, are also at risk. Even 1.5°C will mean more severe droughts and global sea level rise, increasing the risk of damage from storm surges and crop loss and raising the cost of adaptation for millions of people.

Why is climate change a global issue?

Climate change is a global issue for many reasons. First because most of us have an impact on the climate just by living our daily lives. It is true that industrialised countries take most of the blame but it is also true that developed countries produce a lot of emissions to develop because we lack global renewable energy. Second because our industrialised world and many corporations that produce our goods do this in a globalised world and therefore in poorer countries. While doing this they don’t have to follow industrialised world standards and often the environment and the people pay the price for our need of infinite amounts of goods to affordable prices.

The effects of global warming due to extreme levels of greenhouse gas emissions, are seen in the rise of sea levels, mega storms, droughts and the loss of permafrost (which isn’t permafrost anymore just ice waiting to melt due to climate change). Sea level rise, droughts and mega storms don’t care about state boundaries or the difference between industrialised or developing countries. They hit everywhere and effect everybody. It’s global and we are all part of it. You cannot buy yourself out of climate changes as you can buy yourself out of greenhouse gas emission reduction.

Why we need to take not just action but be radical about it right now?

As mentioned before 1.5˚C global temperature rise compared to pre-industrial levels is set in stone and we have to prepare for it. It also means we will have to accept climate refugees and more climate change effects as the norm of the future.

The only thing we are not allowed to do is hope for the better. We have the technology, the know how and the information on how the climate will change and we can work against this trend. It’s not a question what we can do anymore it is a question how fast and how effective we can do it. Profits shouldn’t stay in the way of climate action and a save planet to live on. There is no time left for doubt, ignorance or business as usual.

Links to stay informed

Countdown to the COP21: 5 reasons, 5 photos and 5 events

Turn down the heat by World Bank

Climate Change is coming to a place near you (love this slogan, so exciting)

Nasa is doing Climate Science and it is really good looking

P.S.: of course saying this is all you need to know is an exaggerated point of view but you should feel free to get more information and also make me smarter by commenting.

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