From the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, to this year’s Rio Summit on climate change nations have made promises galore on fighting global warming. However, little has been done to fight this mammoth problem facing our planet. The fight against global warming seems to be a form of mere lip service.
In an opus piece, Rolling Stone magazine’s Bill McKibben, has systematically documented how environmental efforts to tackle global warming have failed.
In the 2009 Copenhagen summit 167 nations signed the accord to fight climate change. However, numbers show that the leaders who signed the pact have done little to stall global warming. Instead, greed has eaten through leading fossil fuel companies and governments, who are trying to capitalise their profits.
Greenpeace too has been fighting a losing battle. The Arctic has come under threat as oil companies and politicians plot to carve it up in search of oil drilling sites. The numbers show that not only are international organisations like Greenpeace fighting a losing battle, but the planet may actually cave in to rising global temperatures, just like in a sci-fi movie.
The Copenhagen Summit (2009) drew up limits to aid in stalling global warming. It concluded, quite weakly, that “the the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius.” Weakly, because, not much has been done since 2009. So far, the average temperature of the planet has risen by just under 0.8 degrees Celsius. A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and the atmosphere over the oceans has made coastal climate conducive to devastating floods.
Scientists have shown that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have hope of staying below two degrees Celsius. Although the Rio Conference this year reestablished nations’ accord with the 2 degrees Celsius mark, we have surpassed this target too. In late May, the International Energy Agency published findings showing that CO2 emissions last year rose to 31.6 gigatons, up 3.2 percent from the year before.
The third number, 2,795 Gigatons describes the amount of carbon already contained in the coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies. In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn. 2,795 is 5 times higher than than 565.
The only way out from this seemingly precarious state of affairs seems to be wide-scale anger. The kind that gripped South Africa in the 1980s. There was global demand for divestment from companies doing business in South Africa. It rose first on college campuses and then spread to municipal and state governments. “The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century,” as Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it, “but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure,” especially from “the divestment movement of the 1980s.”
That’s the kind of force needed says, McKibben, to enforce on nations the need to act now before the world collapses under soaring temperatures and rising sea levels.