WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE?
We call global variations in the earth’s climate climate change. This variation is due to both natural causes and to human activity and it has an impact on all aspects of the climate. Temperature, rainfall, clouds… In very different timescales.
The main features of the climate change that is occuring are:
- It is fast. At the geological scale, which is how changes in climate should be measured. This change is occurring very rapidly, making it very difficult, if not impossible, for ecosystems and socio-economic systems to adapt.
- It is more aggressive because of anthropogenic causes. There is now almost a general scientific consensus that it is the way that we produce and consume energy that is causing the greatest global climate disruption due to high emissions of greenhouse gases.
Back in 2001, the 3rd evaluation report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (ipcc🙂 reported that there is increasing evidence of the existence of climate change and the impacts that result from it. On average, in the 20th century:
- The temperature has increased by approximately 0.6 °c.
- Sea levels have risen by 10 to 12 centimetres, and researchers believe this is due to the expansion of increasingly warm oceans.
The summary report of the 5th ipcc evaluation (2014) concluded that:
“Human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, with impacts observed across all continents. If left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. However, options are available to adapt to climate change and implementing stringent mitigations activities can ensure that the impacts of climate change remain within a manageable range, creating a brighter and more sustainable future.”
CLIMATE CHANGE, AN OBSERVABLE REALITY
Climate change is already here and can be seen all over the planet with rising average temperatures and sea levels, ice melts in the arctic and an increasing number of extreme events.
Climate change has specific features in each area of the planet. The following effects have been noted in Spain:
- Summers are longer. The spanish state meterological agency (aemet) says that it is now almost five weeks longer than it was in the 1970s.
- River flow has drecreased, in some cases by more than 20% in recent decades.
- The expansion of a semi-arid-type climate, with more than 30,000 km2 of new semi-arid areas in just a few decades.
- An increase in heatwaves, which are getting longer, hotter and more frequent.
Aemet is the spanish state meterological agency. Among its many tasks is to prepare and update spain’s climate change scenarios.
WHO IS AFFECTED?
Climate change affects us all. The potential impact is enormous, with predictions of a lack of clean water, major changes in food production conditions and increased mortality rates due to floods, storms, droughts and heatwaves.
The summary report mentioned above confirms that:
“Climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen”.
Climate change is not just an environmental phenomenon; it has far-reaching economic and social consequences. The poorest countries, which are least prepared to face rapid change, will be the ones that suffer the worst consequences.
The same summary report has clear arguments to support these statements:
“Many risks constitute particular challenges for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope. People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change.”
“Substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are at the core of limiting the risks of climate change. And since mitigation reduces the rate as well as the magnitude of warming, it also increases the time available for adaptation to a particular level of climate change, potentially by several decades.”
As a result, although there is some uncertainty that makes it impossible to make a precise calculation of the climate changes expected, the information validated so far is that we have enough time to implement immediate measures, in accordance with the precautionary principle referred to in article 3 of the united nations framework convention on climate change (unfccc).
WHAT CAN WE DO?
There is an institutional framework, whose milestone is the Paris Agreement (2015), that determines the international political commitments made to take action to fight climate change.
The objective is to keep the global average temperature increase below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and to continue efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C.
In order to achieve this goal, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced. This requires switching from our current dependence on fossil fuels to produce energy:
- Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, which are cleaner and do not produce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Becoming more energy efficient.
We already have the technological capacity to decarbonise the economy, particularly the energy sector. Energy generation technologies with renewable source of energy are already economically competitive. We are experiencing a technological revolution which is favourable to the climate. Innovation and creativity must drive and speed up solutions to climate change.
Fossil fuels are also the origin of another hefty problem, which is air quality and its impact on health. We must find solutions to both problems together. For example, solutions to mobility, reducing local pollution and therefore improving people’s quality of life.
We need to act immediately. Every minute counts… There is no time to waste. We still have time to stop climate change and mitigate the consequences. The risk lies in doing nothing.
Climate change is a source of opportunities for everyone. Although this process is full of risks, it is also an opportunity to make the world a better, cleaner place, with a better quality of life for those of us who live here.
To achieve all these goals, we have work together. It is important that we leave nobody behind. This is a journey that we must all make together: cities, regions and countries. Public and private organisations. Companies, NGOS and government. Children, young people and adults.
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