The Bad News: The level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is predicted to rise by a distressing-amount in 2019.
The UN has warned that the world is currently on track to warm by as much as 3.4C by the end of the century. This global warming could give rise to disastrous heatwaves, flooding, droughts and devastating consequences for humans and other species.
The good news is that studies suggest that a consolidated effort now can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years and check global temperatures from rising by 2 degrees C.
The Context: In 2015, 195 countries across the globe signed a pact called the Paris Climate Accord. The aim of the Paris Climate Accord is to align countries in the fight against climate change. Each country has pledged that it will reduce its carbon emissions by a certain amount by 2020.
As the climate crisis unfolds, scientists and some leaders realise that there is a gap between global goals for fighting climate change and what countries are actually doing.
So what are countries doing to battle climate change? Two research organizations maintain a Climate Action Tracker to see who’s on track to meet their self-set goals. So who is making a difference and who isn’t?
The National Geographic Magazine highlights some of the leaders and defaulters:
- Top of their Class: Morocco, Gambia, India, Costa Rica, and the EU
- Barely Trying: US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Ukraine
- Shows some promise: Norway, China, and the United Kingdom
What are the leader countries doing correctly?
Morocco and Gambia are on target to reduce its CO2 emissions to a level consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C. Both countries are increasing their electricity production from renewables. For instance, Morocco has created the largest concentrated solar farm in the world, which covers an area the size of 3,500 football fields and generates enough electricity to power two cities the size of Marrakesh. Gambia is constructing one of the largest photovoltaic (plant that converts sunlight directly into electricity) plants in West Africa and has also launched a large project to restore 10,000 hectares of forests, mangroves, and savannas.
India is on target to reduce its CO2 emissions to a level consistent with limiting warming to 2 degrees C. It has been investing more in renewable energy sources than in fossil fuels. It can adopt a more aggressive 1.5 degree C target by abandoning plans to build more coal-fueled power plants.
Costa Rica aims for its electricity generation to be 100 percent renewable by 2021 and it extremely close at achieving this milestone. 98 percent of its electricity comes from renewables primarily hydropower.
What could China do better? The Chinese government has subsidized the production of electric cars which helped reduce the number of petrol-fueled cars on the road. It is also the largest manufacturer of solar technology in the world. But it will need to do more to reduce carbon emissions. China remains the largest emitter of CO2 and consumer of coal in the world.
The bad news: USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia are the largest defaulters. The Climate Action Tracker ranks their contribution as “critically insufficient.” The Trump Administration is averse to climate change. His policies are for industrial progress, sometimes at the expense of the environment. Thus scientists project an increase in the U.S.’s annual carbon emissions in 2019. To make things worse, the Trump administration has indicated its plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2020.
Russia is the fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide and the only large emitter that has yet to endorse the Paris Agreement. Russia
Saudi Arabia seems to be going backward in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. At present estimates indicate there will be an increase in emissions by as much as 80 percent on 2015 levels by 2030.