GLOBAL WARMING

Immediate climate action needed to avert global peril

The time for climate denial is passed.

In Summary

• The world has seen more frequent and devastating heatwaves, wildfires, floods, sea-level rise, drought and more melting ice.

• We are on a dangerous path of irreparable, irreversible damage to earth’s capacity to support life

Environmental activists take part in the global climate strike protest calling for action on climate change, in Nairobi, on September 20, 2019.
CLIMATE JUSTICE: Environmental activists take part in the global climate strike protest calling for action on climate change, in Nairobi, on September 20, 2019.
Image: REUTERS

Last Friday, an estimated four million people marched across thousands of cities and towns across the world to dramatise the fierce urgency for action to forestall global warming.

On Saturday, 16-year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg whose sole protest helped catalyse a global youth movement said, “We showed them we are united and that we young people are unstoppable.

The protests this past Friday and Saturday were unprecedented. Never has the world seen so many; young and old, rich and poor rally with resolve and singular rage to demand action to halt dangerous global warming. These protests, ahead of the United General Assembly this week, present a social tipping point.

 
 

The time for climate denial is passed. Now is the time for action. In a paper published in the journal Science, 21 researchers drawn from 14 countries note that climate change is already damaging our planet beyond what scientists projected. The existence of Island nations is in peril. The world has seen more frequent and devastating heatwaves, wildfires, floods, sea-level rise, drought and more melting ice.

Moreover, food supplies and freshwater supplies are devastated by drought. Vital ecosystems such as coral reefs have been damaged extensively. Globally, economies and livelihoods are at risk. Our civilisation is in peril. We are on a dangerous path of irreparable, irreversible damage to the earth’s capacity to support life. There are limits to adaptation actions. Sadly, we have surpassed those limits.

The world must set out a bold, audacious path to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Here in Kenya, we must stop all plans to build coal-fired plants. Moreover, our excitement about oil must be tempered by the sobering reality that fossils are not the future.

The Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or at least well below 2 degrees Celsius, is not ambitious or aggressive enough to rein in dangerous warming. With the current energy, agriculture and transportation policies, the world is firmly on a path to a 3.5-degree Celsius temperature increase before the turn of the century.

At the United Nations Climate Action Summit, ahead of the 2019 UN General Assembly, secretary­ general Antonio Guterres has invited world leaders to bring not just speeches but plans. This high-level meeting, which will be addressed by some 60 heads of state and government, presents a critical moment for leaders to show their resolve to deepen the decarbonisation of their economies.

Guterres is asking world leaders to develop “realistic plans” to cut greenhouse emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade. Scientists estimate that investments between $2 trillion and $4.5 trillion a year could prevent a 2-degree temperature rise and help avoid $500 trillion in damages by 2200. But more aggressive action will be needed if we are to avoid what is an inexorable 3.5-degree temperature increase under current fossil fuel regimes.

As citizens, we must continue to pile pressure on government and industry to cut back greenhouse gas emissions. The world must set out a bold, audacious path to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Here in Kenya, we must stop all plans to build coal-fired plants.

Moreover, our excitement about oil must be tempered by the sobering reality that fossils are not the future.

Mothers with prams protest outside BP's global headquarters, ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit, in London, Britain, on September 23, 2019.
Mothers with prams protest outside BP's global headquarters, ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit, in London, Britain, on September 23, 2019.
Image: REUTERS