We’ve all heard about the need for enough urgent action to avoid a climate change calamity, but it simply isn’t happening.
Here in Portugal, one of the most vulnerable countries to global warming, the authorities have been moving decisively in the fight against climate change by replacing fossil fuels with renewables. But this is only a small country. It is the major polluters – China, the United States, India and Russia – that need to get their act together if mass human and environmental destruction is to be avoided in the not-too-distant future. This is not doomsday talk. It’s common sense based on science.
Under Donald Trump’s presidency, the United States scoffed at climate change and made many decisions that slowed climate action. President Joe Biden has tried to reverse that, but now a majority far-right Supreme Court ruling has disrupted America’s ability to cut carbon emissions.
In another recent development, airlines in Europe and the US are demanding weaker rules on aviation emissions. In contrast to claims that airlines are aiming for net zero emissions by 2050, a research study concludes that the airlines are responsible for more global warming than previously thought and that their CO2 emissions may triple by 2050. Some climate experts say this is “the biggest long-term issue our generation faces”.
Setbacks such as those created by supreme court judges, CEOs of fossil fuel organisations and aviation executives are said to be “flying in the face of science”. Accusations are being made of “moral and economic madness”.
The ones who are most worried about all this are the young and those feeling trepidation about future generations. Small countries such as Portugal, and even large ones such as Australia, have grave concerns about heat waves, wildfires, rising sea levels, floods and droughts, extreme conditions already often being experienced with dreadful economic consequences.
Carbon dioxide released into the Earth’s atmosphere is the main source of greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. Most of it comes from just a few powerful countries. The US annually dumps about 5.5 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. China is currently dumping more than 10 billion tons, a massive figure that is expected to reach well over 12 billion tons by 2027.
António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations and former prime minister of Portugal, has frequently spoken out about the need for urgent action. He has warned that most national climate pledges are simply not good enough. “This is not just my view. Science and public opinion are giving timid climate policies a giant fail mark,” he has said.
“We are witnessing a historic and dangerous disconnect – science and citizens are demanding ambitious and transformative climate action. Meanwhile, many governments are dragging their feet.”
He anticipates that dreadful consequences will be the result. Nearly half the world’s population are already highly vulnerable. This is at a time when countries should all come together in the fight for human lives instead of allowing senseless wars and political divisions to tear us apart.
“The energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine has seen a perilous doubling down on fossil fuels by the major economies. The war has reinforced an abject lesson: our energy mix is broken.”
The paradox, says Guterres, is that cheaper, fairer and more reliable energy options, including wind and solar, should have been developed sooner and faster. “Had we invested massively in renewable energy in the past, we would not be so dramatically at the mercy of the instability of fossil fuel markets.”
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has warned that “it’s now or never” to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. For our part, we must keep reminding ourselves that this is not just one of the many matters troubling the world today. It is by far the biggest and the very existence of humanity on planet Earth is at stake.
By LEN PORT
Len Port is a journalist and author based in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on current affairs in Portugal on his blog: algarvenewswatch.blogspot.pt