The earth’s climate is drastically changing. Human-induced warming and extreme weather conditions are real and occurring more frequently than over the last 10,000 years. We are experiencing a climate crisis of catastrophic proportions due to the inexorable plunder of the environment. Thus, we are answering some of the most frequently asked questions about climate change to raise awareness, for us to speak up, and ultimately, take action.
Climate change refers to the long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns that may be natural or human-made. However, in recent times, climate change is no longer just about these gradual changes. It is also the destruction of the environment due to the continuous plunder of the planet.
The rising temperature of Earth’s atmosphere, rising sea levels, ecosystem collapse, and severe catastrophes due to erratic weather patterns are the main threats of climate change. The rise of global temperatures to 1.5C is now “almost inevitable” while the climate breakdown will become “irreversible.” Without the commitment to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions vis-a-vis the rate of the Earth’s warming, tens of millions of people would become more vulnerable to life-threatening heat waves, food and water scarcity, coastal flooding, and other catastrophes.
Warming greater than the global average is already being experienced in various parts of the world and is altering the earth’s climate system. It is becoming an inescapable problem globally due to its irreversible impacts that could lead to severe catastrophes such as drought, flooding, disease spread, and damages to biodiversity. These catastrophes could kill and devastate millions of people especially those in the Global South who are more exposed to risks and hazards due to the lack of resources for mitigation and the unabated exploitation of their natural resources by the Global North.
The 1.5 degrees celsius target is the goal of the Paris Agreement adopted last 2015. It demands nations to make a concerted effort to reduce greenhouse emissions to limit global warming to only a maximum of 1.5 degrees celsius. It is a crucial commitment to ensure that in the coming years, planet Earth would still be habitable otherwise, the continuous global warming will lead to extreme heat waves, oceans rising, and destruction of biodiversity.
Without the commitment to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the Global North, the planet is on track to warm by an average of 2.1 to 2.9 degrees celsius by 2100. This is far higher than the 1.5 degrees celsius set by the Paris Agreement back in 2015. And given this rate of warming, tens of millions of people would even become more vulnerable to life-threatening heat waves, food and water scarcity, coastal flooding and other catastrophes.
According to the report produced by the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), lead center for climate update predictions, the chance of temporarily exceeding the 1.5°C threshold has risen steadily since 2015 despite attempts to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions. The 2022 IPCC report also warned that the 1.5°C mark made at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will be reached within the next two decades without the commitment to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors. Latest data also indicates that the world is on track for a temperature rise of between 2.4°C and 2.6°C by the end of this century and given this rate of warming, tens of millions of people would even become more vulnerable to climate catastrophes sooner than we expected.
No. Although rapid population growth can affect the environment, the worsening climate crisis is still primarily due to the systematic destruction of the environment by corporate players and capitalist countries. As a matter of fact, only 100 companies worldwide are responsible for 71% of carbon emissions in the world. Companies led or owned by oil and gas companies, including Aramco, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell. Between 1988 to 2016, these companies were able to produce 923 billion tonnes of carbon emissions.
The people are forced to bear-the-brunt of the maladies of climate change. Severe and frequent weather storms lead to massive flooding and landslides and the destruction of homes and communities. Changes in climate are one of main causes of the global rise in hunger and poor nutrition. Crops, fisheries and livestock are destroyed or have become less productive. Droughts and the expanding deserts reduce arable lands for food while populations face the threat of not having enough water. The climate crisis now breeds more pestilence leading to an increase in diseases and fatalities caused by these.
This means more poverty, hunger, displacement, and death to already vulnerable sectors of society. This is happening while transnational corporations and advanced capitalist nations who heavily contribute to its destruction are left unscathed.
The increasingly frequent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms and floods, and the disruption of food systems, because of climate change are putting more and more people at risk. Climate change is aggravating 50 percent of the known human pathogenic diseases. The rise in zoonoses and food, water, and vector-borne diseases, as well as mental health problems are all significant effects of climate change on health. It is clear that human-induced global warming and other adverse effects of climate change increase the morbidity and mortality rate of the population.
Climate change is causing drastic environmental changes that disturb natural habitats and affect biodiversity. The rise of global temperatures beyond 1.5 C can lead to more forest fires, storms, and droughts that could alter ecosystems, threaten various species that could ultimately lead to their extinction.
Some of the adverse effects of climate change are already irreversible and unfortunately, governments are not doing enough to protect billions of people across the globe especially the most vulnerable nations. However, the detrimental impacts of climate change can be slowed by reducing carbon emissions and pushing for climate-specific adaptation mechanisms such as creating coastal defenses against sea rise, improving the living conditions of the people by providing basic social services, ensuring good governance, and other mechanisms that can improve climate resilience.
Tree planting has become increasingly popular as a way to address the worsening effects of climate change. While it can help in some way and is undeniably a good thing, the best way to help save the environment is the reduction of carbon emissions at the policy level. That means the biggest polluting countries should commit to the phase out of dirty energy.
If it’ll be “business-as-usual” for mega-corporations and the economic elites from the Global North, the climate crisis will only worsen and will lead to the suffering and death of the vulnerable populations mostly from the Global South. We are already exceeding planetary boundaries and allowing the unbridled thirst for profit to continue would also mean the end of humankind.
No. Climate change is an issue that intersects with the social and political aspects of society. Climate change is not just about the atmospheric stocks of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses that could affect the entire population, but it is also about the current development paradigms operating at the expense of the Earth’s biodiversity and natural resources. As a matter of fact, 97% of scientists believe that the Earth’s climate is warming with human behavior and activity as its primary driver. Human activity under a system that utilizes political, economic, and military power for profit accumulation, acquiring new resources, exploiting cheap labor, and expanding markets for corporate interest.
The main culprits of this climate crisis are big businesses and rich capitalist nations. They have ceaselessly amassed wealth while deliberately remaining non-committal to reduce their CO2 emissions, ending deforestation, and improving climate resilience in climate change conferences, climate deals, and other policy making arenas. On top of ruthlessly plundering natural resources, they continue to exploit human labor for their benefit and interest.
China and the US are the biggest polluters in the world. China, with more than 10,065 million tons of CO2 released, and the United States, with 5,416 million tons of CO2. Moreover, the US military-industrial complex remains the number one producer of greenhouse gasses in the world and the largest consumer of fossil fuels on the planet.
International Financial Institutions (IFIs) are aggressively generating mechanisms that push for false but ultimately, business-friendly solutions to climate change. Historically, they are responsible for funding dirty energy projects. These IFIs push for development projects that destroy the environment, displace communities, support militarization, and trample human rights.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or commonly referred to as COP brings politicians, diplomats, representatives of national governments, land and environmental defenders together to address climate change and its grave consequences. However, just like the previous Climate Change Conferences, barriers are in place to prevent environmental activists and civil society organizations from playing a full part.
There is progress but not enough. At COP 26 in Glasgow in 2021, parties to the convention agreed on the Glasgow Climate Pact which consists of items such as strengthening efforts to build resilience to climate change, curb greenhouse gas emissions, and provide the necessary finances for both.
In 2009, national governments of developed countries already agreed to fulfill their pledge of providing 100 billion dollars annually to developing countries by 2020. Deadline of this “pledge” was then extended to 2025 due the setting of a new global climate finance goal by 2025. However, this goal has never been achieved. Last 2020, the United Nations (UN) conceded and concluded that “the only realistic scenarios” showed the $100-billion target was out of reach.
They have also completed the Paris Agreements rulebook in relation to market and non-market approaches in an attempt to create solutions to the climate crisis. However, while there are work programs and attempts to scale up the mitigation processes, without the binding agreements to drastically reduce greenhouse emissions and no concrete financial mechanism to address loss and damages due to the climate crisis, people would even become more vulnerable to life-threatening heat waves, food and water scarcity, coastal flooding and other catastrophes.
Corporate players continue to dominate the COP deliberately excluding the voices of the people who are directly and immensely affected by climate catastrophes. The interrelated natural, social, and economic disasters are killing and hurting more the poor and marginalized sectors of society. The major plunderers of the environment are able to get away from their crimes against humanity while the rest of the world is left to suffer and fend for themselves.
Undeniably, climate change and its adverse impacts has created irreparable damages especially for the Global South. Nations are not equally culpable for the climate crisis and poorer nations are forced to bear the brunt of these climate change impacts without access to resources and with accumulating debt to wealthier nations.
The Global South needs climate finance in order to address loss and damage and more importantly, an equitable loss and damage mechanism. If the developed nations truly recognize the importance of averting, minimizing, and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change as stated in the Paris Agreement, instead of denying that they are the main culprits of environmental degradation, they should pay up and ultimately, be held accountable for their active destruction of the environment.
The phrase, “loss and damages” refers to the irreversible impacts of the worsening climate change, including severe weather events, and slow-onset events such as, sea level rise and desertification. It also pertains to the economic impacts of climate change such as loss of life, livelihood, ecosystems and cultural heritage. Countries especially those in the Global South who have contributed the least to climate change are experiencing these impacts to which they cannot adapt due to lack of resources crucial in dealing with it.
The issue of loss and damages has been raised by climate vulnerable nations ever since world leaders first gathered at the UN in the early 1990s. Thus, it is a crucial matter that will be discussed in COP 27 especially now that the Global South are more assertive that the main perpetrators pay for the adverse and irreversible damages of climate change.
Our lifestyle decisions can cut carbon emissions, but one person’s actions to reduce one’s carbon footprint won’t have much of an impact. Strong global environmental regulations, people-centered solutions, and structural changes are all required for us to have a substantial impact.
As the impacts of climate change become more vicious and the biggest emitting countries and mega-corporations become more rapacious, it is time to break the narrative that the climate crisis can be solved through individual actions. Now more than ever, the people must become resolute and steadfast in struggling for our rights, protecting natural resources, and ultimately, putting an end to the systemic plunder of the environment.
This current humanitarian and ecological crisis demands concrete action by all our governments. Governments should listen to the people, particularly the climate-vulnerable sectors. They should veer away from the greenwashing and the corporate capture of solutions. They should not allow fossil fuel giants and polluters, the very culprits of the climate problem, to dominate the conversation in the policy-making arenas.
Developed nations which are historically accountable for the exploitation of the world’s resources should commit more and enact concrete transition plans for the reduction of emissions. We need commitments that support the most affected countries to adapt to climate change impacts.
Governments of developing and poor nations should echo the demands of their people for reparations to communities most affected by the climate crisis. These governments should support the calls for loss and damage as part of attaining climate justice.
World leaders need to recognize that climate catastrophes are harming more the people of the Global South. It is only then that we can build genuine sustainable development pathways for the planet that is founded in social justice.
(25) Who has the solutions?
The worsening climate crisis is due to the unchecked appropriation of the world’s resources by imperialist nations and corporations. We cannot expect the very culprits of these crises to provide us the transformative and genuine solutions we need. Governments and climate summits should start listening to the people’s demands.
COP27 and world leaders should enforce multilateral environmental agreements, enable and empower countries to adopt and enforce environmental regulations that serve the interest of people over business interests. CSOs with grassroots organizations should continue to deepen the discourse on the totality of development and environment policy for the people and planet living as one organism.
We already have farmers, indigenous peoples, workers and vulnerable groups that are forwarding and practicing people-centered solutions. They should be at the front and center if we truly want to solve the climate crisis.
(26) As members of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and People’s Organizations (POs) how do we maximize our engagements to address the climate crisis?
It is crucial for advocates, environmental defenders, CSOs, and POs to claim civic spaces, especially in an intergovernmental policy-making body dominated by the major plunderers of the environment. We must expose the reality that cooperation between nation-states in various policy arenas remains tokenistic, and serves only the interest of powerful countries and industries responsible for the excessive extraction of natural resources and labor exploitation. It is imperative for advocates, environmental defenders, CSOs, and POs to build an alternative process to these engagements, actions, and endeavors. They must reclaim civic spaces, relentlessly voice their demands, hold governments and corporate polluters accountable for the climate crisis, challenge their insatiable thirst for profit, and ultimately, challenge the very system that brought us to this crisis.
(27) What should we do now?
The people must collectively resist and support all efforts and campaigns against the climate crisis and forward genuine solutions to overcome climate change impact. Governments of capitalist countries and mega-corporations should be held accountable for centuries of environmental destruction. It is an economic system premised to serve the interest of the ruling class. The fight for climate justice is not just a fight against the adverse effects of climate change but a fight for equality and social justice.
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