It is clear that we are not doing enough to combat climate change, but how much more do we need to do? The United Nations has said that the world on the whole needs to do three times as much as its doing right now. As it stands, the world is falling behind in the fight against climate change. The gap between greenhouse gas emissions and the levels needed to achieve the goals agreed in the Paris climate accord is widening. The UN has warned that the effects of climate change can already be seen in the deadly wildfires, heatwaves and hurricanes across the globe. The WHO has also pointed to the rise of a different phenomenon: disease. The increase in global temperatures has contributed to the rise in infectious diseases, including tropical diseases such as dengue fever. The UN has warned that this is the consequence of a one-degree Celsius rise in temperatures. If nothing changes, the world is likely to see a 4 degree Celsius rise in temperatures by the end of the century. This would mean chaos unlike we have known before. The urgency of the need to react and enact policies cannot be overstated.
With another round of international climate change negotiations continuing in Poland, the UN is advocating a range of proposals, including new taxes on fossil fuels, investment in clean technologies and stronger policies to bring down carbon emissions. The targets are clear: carbon emissions must be reduced by a quarter by 2030 if the target of our temperature remaining under 2 degree Celsius is to be achieved. But is it possible that national pledges to cut carbon emissions will triple? This looks unlikely in an environment where two big economies, the US and Brazil, have leaderships that deny that we need to fight climate change. The UN is worried that not enough can be done to draw existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, whether by planting trees or storing carbon dioxide emitted by power plants. The good news is that the solar and wind power sectors have grown much stronger than before. New records are being set in the fight against climate change, but the warning is that these records themselves are not enough. While the UN wants to increase targets, the reality is grimmer. There is no set of rules yet on enforcing the Paris climate accord. Increasing targets on paper is one thing, managing their enforcement is another. As yet, there is no agreed upon enforcement mechanism. We will have to move one-step at a time, but without speeding up how we are acting, we might not be far from a point of no return.