In just over two months, the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) will convene in Glasgow, Scotland. The decisions taken and commitments made there will have a massive influence on the environment of our only planet and the conditions under which humanity will have to live for many generations.
Worldwide Commitment Needed
In a conclusive report issued earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) affirmed some fearsome facts with more certainty than ever. The effects of climate change are already with us and will get worse. Technologies exist to mitigate global heating to keep within the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) increase above preindustrial levels set as a limit at the Paris Agreement of 2015. We must cut emissions 50% by 2030 to achieve that goal. But it will require a massive worldwide investment of resources and political will.
The Earth has already warmed 1.1 degrees.
Poor countries are disproportionately bearing the brunt of the climate change for which they bear the least responsibility. Under the Paris Agreement, rich countries promised to pay poorer countries $100 billion annually in climate aid. They have fallen far short. The 1.5 C goal can’t be achieved without that assistance.
An increase of 2 C would almost surely cause terrible suffering around the world. Yet even that is achievable only under relatively rosy scenarios. The droughts, heat waves, wildfires and flooding we are seeing today are only the beginning.
Only the rich and powerful countries and the corporate behemoths they nurture can implement the necessary measures at the scale required. But it’s in precisely those nations – particularly the US, China, Russia, and Brazil – that seemingly implacable economic and political forces are blocking progress.
Make Your Voice Heard
While world leaders prepare to meet in Glasgow, what can individuals do? The Imperial College of London has a good roundup of actions you can take to help fight climate change – everything from contacting your representatives and taking public transportation to eating less meat and dairy and supporting your local green spaces.
There are also ways to make your voice heard besides contacting your government representatives, who may, after all, be a) already convinced, or b) pigheaded and useless. For example, you can get involved in a regional climate week like this one. Participating in a climate strike or even posting a letter to a public website can contribute, even if only in a zeitgeist-y way.
COP26 runs from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, 2021.