The Climate Change Discourse is Here - Action is Vital and Urgent

As the planet warns further, heat-waves and other weather extremes that today occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, would become the "new climate normal" are creating a world of increased risks and instability. The consequence for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resource shift, sea-levels rise, and the livelihoods of millions of people are put at risk. Climate change impacts such as extreme heat waves may not be unavoidable because the earth's atmospheric system is locked into warming close to 1.50c above the pre-industrial levels by mid-century and the risks are rising. Even very ambitious mitigation strategies taken today will not change this. This will eventually affect the world's poorest and most vulnerable people the most.

We are already seeing record-breaking temperatures occurring more frequently, rainfall increasing intensity in some places, and drought-prone regions like the Mediterranean becoming drier. These changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livehoods of millions of people they also have serious consequences for development budgets and institutions, where our investments, support and advice must now build resilience and help affected population adapt. Dramatic climate changes and shifting weather extremes are already affecting people around the world, damaging crops and coastlines, and putting water supply and food security at risk. The good news is that we can take action that reduces the rate of climate changes and promotes economic growth, ultimately stopping the journey down this dangerous path. World leaders and policy makers need to embrace affordable solutions like carbon pricing and policy choices that shift investment to clean public transport, cleaner/renewable energy, climate-smart agriculture, social and commercial forestry, clean energy and more energy efficient factories, buildings and appliance. If warming continues unabated, irreversible changes on large scale could be trigged. In Northern Russia, forest dieback and thawing of permafrost threaten to amplify global warming as stored carbon and methane are released into the atmosphere, giving rise to self-amplifying feedback loop. Methane emissions could increase by 20 to 30 percent across Russia at 20c warning by 2050.

It is crystal clear that we cannot continue down the current path unchecked, growing emissions. Leaders must step up and take the necessary practical decisions on how we manage our economies towards clean/fossil-free growth and resilient development. Urgent and substantial technological, economic, political, institutional and behavioral change is needed to reverse present trends. The practical quest for a balance between economic development and environmental protection can be complementary. With the growing momentum for global climate action, we have an opportunity to close the emissions gap and keep within the limits of what science says is needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. We need the political will to make this happen. Yes the future is priceless but we have the power to keep global warming bellow 20c by catalyzing green investments (to put a price on carbon), prioritise focused innovations on development projects for carbon offsets, a multi-media approach to public awareness through climate change education for all-to build capacity and knowledge enhancement to ensure full participation and involvement of all stakeholders in abating and mitigating climate change and its implications.

Let us go a joint vision to encourage a global shift to energy efficiency and renewables in order to check on carbon dioxide emissions. To set the planet on a sustainable path we should all aim to support climate change fight through measuring emission reductions from energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. On this, there is a ray of hope because we have a wide range of renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives in place- though we should aim to boost efforts to save billions of dollars and billions of tones of Co2 emissions each year by effectively measuring and reporting reductions of green house gas emissions resulting from projects and programmes that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in developing countries. We should aim to encourage nations to put in place policies that enable and encourage renewable and increased energy efficiency. However, most do not measure or report the reductions in GHG emissions/carbon offsets that result. We believe that, if measured, these reductions would amount to about one gigaton a year by 2020 showing the savings that can be made and thus encouraging an uptake of the energy efficiency policies and renewable energy technologies. These, while growing in use and prominence, are still in many ways an untapped gold mine that can greatly reduce the threat of severe climate change, save money and help meet the sustainable energy for all initiatives' goal of giving everyone on this planet access to clean and modern forms of renewable energy. For example, the International Energy Agency last year reported that our global economy could be $18 trillion better off by 2035 if we adopted energy efficiency as a first choice, while various estimates put the potential from energy efficiency improvements anywhere between 2.5 and 6.8 gigatons of carbon per year by 2030.

To build the momentum and support required to achieve such savings, the climate and economic benefits of the existing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects should be more widely recognized, instead of passing under the radar as they often do now. Stakeholders should play a crucial role in making these contributions visible by measuring emissions reductions and reporting success, thus building the case for scaling up energy efficiency and renewable energy policies. Current and planned energy efficiency policies harness merely a third of the economically viable energy efficiency potential. By scaling up technical assistance, mutual support, networking and information sharing, collaboration and putting in place policy and institutional frame works that integrate development and climate change mitigation, this potential can be fully realized. Renewable energy efficiency can play a key role in closing this gap, and we should aim to increase the evidence base for the benefits and thus encourage nations to put in place policies that can enable and encourage renewable and increased energy efficiency. New technologies also open up market opportunities and create new jobs. It is estimated that between 2004 and 2014 employment in the renewables' sector doubled from about 3(three) million jobs in 2004 to 6.5 million jobs in 2014. In 2013, renewable supplied about 19 percent of the world's energy consumption, highlighting progress and the potential of greater financial and economic savings as well as more jobs.

Am of the view that in order to limit global temperature rise to 20c, head off worst impacts of climate change, global carbon neutrality should be attained by mid-to-late century. However, in business-as-usual scenarios global GHGs emissions could rise up 87G+Co2e by 2050 far beyond safe limits, and could bring an increased need for spending to adapt to the consequences of a rapidly warming world. Under this scenario, adaptation costs could hit double the worst case figures. For instance, the adaptation costs for Africa alone could reach approximately $ 350 billion annually by 2070 should the 20c target be significantly exceeded, compared to $ 150 billion lower per year if the target were met. Worse still, less developing countries and Small Islands developing States are likely to have far greater adaptation costs, the existing adaptation gap will widen as greater financial resources will need to be committed later on. There is also a need to accelerate the propagation and international transfer of technologies for adaptation, many of which already exist. Governments should remove barriers to technology uptake, for example, through initiatives, regulations and the strengthening of the institutions.

Critical to the successful uptake of technologies is their applicability beyond increasing resilience to scale up the deployment of adaptation technologies when they meet a number of human needs in addition to providing climate benefits. An example of successful technologies are the scientifically developed seeds, which can be used to sustain agriculture within the content of a changing climate, though critical for most Africa countries given the dependence of large proportions of the population on farming. In Madagascar, for example, rice varieties that mature in four months (as opposed to six or seven) have been introduced. These rice varieties stand a greater chance of reaching maturity before the height of the cyclone season, increasing the probability of a sufficient harvest and ensuring seeds will be available to plant the following season. We can also need to use the existing knowledge on climate change and adaptation more effectively. For many regions and countries there is a lack of systematic identification and analysis of adaptation gaps. Integrating and interpreting scientific evidence from different sources and making it available to decision makers at all levels for a consensus methodology on course of action, is one of the most important knowledge needs today. We can also go affordable green solutions for vulnerable populations through microfinance and ecosystem-based adaptation. Countries are giving increasing attention to where they realistically need to be by 2025, 2030 and beyond, in order to limit global temperature rise bellow 20c. Carbon neutrality and eventually net zero or what some term climate neutrality will be required so that what cumulative emissions left are safely absorbed by the globes natural infrastructure such as forests, wetlands and soils.

The sustainable development goals underscore the many synergies between development and climate change mitigation goals. Linking development policies with climate change mitigation will help countries build energy efficient, low-carbon infrastructures of the future and achieve transformational change that echoes the true meaning of sustainable development. To avoid exceeding the budget, global carbon neutrality should be reached between 2055 and 2070, meaning that the annual anthropogenic Co2 emissions should hit net Zero by then on global scale. Net zero implies that some remaining Co2 emissions could be compensated by the same amount of carbon dioxide uptake or "negative" emissions, so long as the net input to the atmosphere due to human activity is Zero. Taking into account non-Co2 GHGs including methane, nitrous oxide and hydro fluorocarbons, total global GHG emissions need to shrink to net zero between 2080 - 2100.


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Deborah Whitehouse
2018-04-15 19:29:31

Thank you Dr. Meaud Major, for yet another balanced, well researched and beautifully written article. I agree on so many points and my wish is that those who deny the facts read your work, and heed its cautions and suggestions. I apologize for my county’s recent and egregious policy shift, pulling out of the Paris Accords. In a truly schizophrenic shift from his brilliant predecessor and Co author of global policies to cap CO2 through thoughtful regulation, this President threatens the immediate success of these policies, but that should be short-lived based on social premise. We hope. Give the vicissitudes of human nature and the need to build wealth and innovate, by also supporting and encouraging technological advancements in renewables, should be a greater plank in policy, than it is now. For the allure of wealth is a great motivator and leveraging that will produce quick returns on reducing carbons, along with reducing animal based diets to reduce these creatures’ enormous negative contributions in the form of methane gas. As to the advances in science in developing climate resistant and fast germinating seeds, care should be given to orerving nutrition and not sacrificing it in deference to high yields. For that is most certainly happening now with any type of genetically modified plant. We have food, but is it sustenance? And if it isn’t, how does that increase value in life and longevity? Just a few thoughts as I read your wonderful piece. I look forward to reading more.

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Majwala Meaud Major
2018-04-17 18:54:28

What a cool observation Deborah Whitehouse, I am falling in love with your analysis especially that part on developing climate resistant seeds..Well said, it is very true we should be very cautious when taking up genetically modified seeds, if not we not let go of them at all..!!!

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