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State and International Organization Roles in Mitigating Climate Change

2317 words (9 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

08/02/20 Environmental Studies Reference this

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Is international action to mitigate climate change possible? What role might states and international organizations play in helping or hindering such an outcome?

 

Introduction

Climate change is one of the most complex and hazardous challenges facing current day society. The impact of climate change is hugely affecting lives of the people around the globe (Bauer et al, 2016). Increased temperatures is not only harming current society conditions but it is identified to last for decades and centuries to come. Carbon emissions in the form of green house gases is the major cause for climate change. Carbon emissions have brought about several catastrophic changes in the atmospheric conditions due to increased global warming, such as rising sea-levels, extreme floods, droughts, melting glaciers and dynamic weather events. Almost all nations have recognized the urgency to mitigate and control the rate of these emergent changes (Powlson et al, 2014).

This essay will analyze the ongoing changes around the world to diminish such extreme effects of climate change and also focus upon identifying the role played by international organizations and governments in this issue. The main aim of this essay is to evaluate the effectiveness of several measures taken by states and other international bodies.

Mitigation of Frequent Climatic Changes

Climate change mitigation mainly refers to actions undertaken to reduce or limit the rate of change in climatic conditions so as to curb its long-term consequences (Altieri and Nicholls, 2017). Climate change mitigation largely involves the reduction and control of human emission of greenhouse gases i.e. carbon dioxide. Consequently carbon dioxide is a heat trapping gas and the main cause of global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions have reached alarmingly high levels. Because of these high levels, there has been shift towards disruptive weather patterns. These disruptive weather patterns contributed considerable affects to the most poor and vulnerable communities of the world. The following have been the determined outcome of global climate changes:

Increased global temperatures – Uncontrollable increase in average global temperature has led to tremendous decline in production of major crops (Blum, 2016). A significant reduction in crops’ like maize, wheat and other key crops’ has been observed in recent years due to warmer climates all over the globe.

Increased melting of ice from glaciers has led to sea water levels rising. Many low lying and coastal areas are on the verge of submergence due to increased sea levels. It has been found that oceans have expanded, and the average level of water rose by 19cms in the last century due to large scale melting of glaciers.

Higher concentration of carbon dioxide affecting lives – As a result more heat is being trapped due to increased levels of carbon dioxide which ultimately is impacting lives of humans. This impact has also become a major factor behind the extinction of many species (Jantz et al, 2015).

Unpredictable weather patterns and frequent occurrences of natural disasters – Frequent incidents of natural calamities have been observed in the past few decades which can be corelated to extreme and unpredictable changes in weather conditions (Plevin, Delucchi and Creutzig, 2014). These natural disasters bring about with it huge loss of life and damage to property.

Prospects of international action to mitigate climatic change

Internationally several actions have been taken by governmental and non-governmental bodies to frame a range of policies towards avoidance of dangerous climate changes. This issue requires coordinated efforts at an international level to help prominently developing countries towards renewable energy sources and a low carbon economy (Reckien et al, 2014). The success of these actions demand concentrated efforts from all economies, societies and public as well as private participation.  The question of whether international action to mitigate climate change is possible can be reasoned in an affirmative response. Climate change is occurring worldwide and no nation has remained unaffected by its hazards. Further, this is a global challenge which needs to be dealt with at a global level. Individual efforts by a few countries cannot bring about significant change on their own.

The apex institution the United Nations (UN) has taken steps to bring all countries of the world on a common platform to approach the issues of climate change. Under the umbrella of the United Nations, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the main treaty on climate change. Member states have agreed to limit future global warming below 2.0 degrees till 2020 with a target to reduce total carbon emission by 50 percent till 2050. UNFCC’s objective is “to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” (UNFCC 1992). The treaty adopted on 9 May 1992 has been ratified by 197 member states.  Due to its nearly universal membership, the convention enjoys a legitimate assent in the international system. Through this treaty, the UNFCC is imposing actions on member states to bend the continuously rising global temperature curve downwards (Havlík et al, 2014). This treaty not only obligates states to formulate national plans for the same, but also bounds them to assess and evaluate the success of such plans. Several national programs have been adopted and currently being run by many European countries, aimed at an increased use of renewable energy sources such as wind, biogas, solar etc. to reduce it emissions remarkably (Havlík et al, 2014).

With the introduction of the Paris Agreement in 2015 by the UNFCC, this convention has taken further steps to implement protocols on states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement sees all member states agree to work towards limiting global temperature below 2 degrees centigrade. It has been identified as of April 2018, 175 countries have ratified this agreement. Additionally, ten developing countries have submitted their first iteration of their nationally adopted plans to reduce climatic changes. As set out in the Paris Agreement, states are expected to follow common principles yet with differing level of methods and responsibilities corresponding to their capabilities. One of the key principles of climate change mititgation, written into the 1992 UNFCC, was the idea of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities’ (Baylis, John et al, 2017). This concluded that although all nations accept responsibility for climate change, there was a general consensus developed nations were immediately responsible for global climate change on the back of industralization. With this notion written into the agreement, it alleviated excessive burden to employ the latest technologies from the shoulders of developing and under developed nations. Also abatement measures in manufacturing sectors have been critically supported to align with national and international policies. A number of new approaches have also been adopted regarding control of emissions from landfills as well. Whilst the Paris Agreement is not fully binding on states, it is in their interest in terms of achieving benefits of climatic change control as well as attaining global solidarity. Furthermore, any breach may lead to negative reactions from other countries, global financial markets and their own citizens (Aldy and Pizer, 2015).

However, it has also been identifies that the United States and Australia are major contributors in emission of greenhouse gases, yet they have not completely ratified the protocols relative to global emissions (Creutzig et al, 2015). Most developed countries are still observed to follow their domestic policies and targets towards emission reductions from industries and other sources. This is still a huge matter of concern for other developing nations.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to keep global warming below 2 °C, developed countries (US, Australia, UK) are required to reduce more than 80-95% of emissions by 2050. However it has also been stated by NASA that even if all the emissions from of GHG’s is stopped from today itself, its effects will last for hundreds of years to come and thus affect future generations (Aldy and Pizer, 2015).

Role of states and international organizations play in helping or hindering such an outcome

To address the issues relating to global climate change, governments of many nations and international NGO’s are working to bring awareness and reforms to reduce the magnitude of effluents in the form of carbon emissions. The United Nations has also founded several committees and panels to curb this at a global level. The formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by the United Nations (UN) has paved the way for effective change. IPCC being the scientific body provides best scientific solutions and recommendations to global communities (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2015).

All countries around the globe are encouraged to sign treaties and agreements especially developed countries. Developed countries have been known as major contributors of green house gas emissions and the international system seeks to redress their huge energy exploitation. States are being provided timely advice on mechanisms to be adopted to reduce energy consumptions. Also, regular assessments are conducted by internationally appointed bodies to ensure practical implications of the laws and policies (Blum, 2016).

Developing nations are encouraged to improve energy efficiency and utilization of other renewable sources of energy. Several states are provided with research and development funds to encourage building of new and energy efficient technologies which could aid in reducing excessive emissions (Reckien et al, 2014). Agencies of the United Nations are holding programs and conventions to promote awareness towards the social and economic impact of climate change. Countries are mandated to follow norms laid down in existing legal instruments towards environmental protection.

Conclusion

From this analysis it can be concluded that increasing climatic changes are transferring devastating impacts on the lives of people across the globe (Altieri and Nicholls, 2017).). It has also been observed from this scenario that massive emission of greenhouse gases in the form of carbon dioxide and other relative effluents are major contributing factors for global warming. As such, this is causing immense warming up of the average temperature of the earths’ surface. This has resulted in a tremendous rise in sea levels. It has also been identified that united efforts are being made by all countries of the world to curb this global increase of emissions by way of implementing laws and policies. It is critical that timely assessments of actions undertaken against this issue also be conducted. These assessments will evaluate the effectiveness of actions being undertaken and whether new measures need to be implemented. Besides this several governmental and non-governmental organizations are playing a major role at both a national and global level to control the rise in temperature. It can be summarized that critical actions are needed at an international level to mitigate the climate changes arising globally to protect life on earth.

References

  • Aldy, J.E. and Pizer, W.A. 2015. The competitiveness impacts of climate change mitigation policies. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists2(4), pp.565-595.
  • Altieri, M.A. and Nicholls, C.I. 2017. The adaptation and mitigation potential of traditional agriculture in a changing climate. Climatic Change140(1), pp.33-45.
  • Bauer, N., Mouratiadou, I., Luderer, G., Baumstark, L., Brecha, R.J., Edenhofer, O. and Kriegler, E. 2016. Global fossil energy markets and climate change mitigation–an analysis with REMIND. Climatic Change136(1), pp.69-82.
  • Blum, J. 2016. Contribution of ecosystem services to air quality and climate change mitigation policies: the case of urban forests in Barcelona, Spain. In Urban Forests (pp. 21-54). Apple Academic Press.
  • Baylis, John et al. (2017) The globalization of world politics : an introduction to international relations . Seventh edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Creutzig, F., Jochem, P., Edelenbosch, O.Y., Mattauch, L., van Vuuren, D.P., McCollum, D. and Minx, J. 2015. Transport: A roadblock to climate change mitigation?. Science350(6263), pp.911-912.
  • Havlík, P., Valin, H., Herrero, M., Obersteiner, M., Schmid, E., Rufino, M.C., Mosnier, A., Thornton, P.K., Böttcher, H., Conant, R.T. and Frank, S. 2014. Climate change mitigation through livestock system transitions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, p.201308044.
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2015. Climate change 2014: Mitigation of climate change (Vol. 3). Cambridge University Press.
  • Jantz, S.M., Barker, B., Brooks, T.M., Chini, L.P., Huang, Q., Moore, R.M., Noel, J. and Hurtt, G.C. 2015. Future habitat loss and extinctions driven by land‐use change in biodiversity hotspots under four scenarios of climate‐change mitigation. Conservation Biology29(4), pp.1122-1131.
  • Plevin, R.J., Delucchi, M.A. and Creutzig, F. 2014. Using attributional life cycle assessment to estimate climate‐change mitigation benefits misleads policy makers. Journal of Industrial Ecology18(1), pp.73-83.
  • Powlson, D.S., Stirling, C.M., Jat, M.L., Gerard, B.G., Palm, C.A., Sanchez, P.A. and Cassman, K.G. 2014. Limited potential of no-till agriculture for climate change mitigation. Nature Climate Change4(8), p.678.
  • Reckien, D., Flacke, J., Dawson, R.J., Heidrich, O., Olazabal, M., Foley, A., Hamann, J.P., Orru, H., Salvia, M., Hurtado, S.D.G. and Geneletti, D. 2014. Climate change response in Europe: what’s the reality? Analysis of adaptation and mitigation plans from 200 urban areas in 11 countries. Climatic change122(1-2), pp.331-340.
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