Column: Mitigation of climate change requires global cooperation

Column: Mitigation of climate change requires global cooperation

A recent study conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sanctioned by the United Nations, revealed both good and bad news regarding global climate change, but most importantly sent out a message that all nations need to heed. This panel found that global climate change is at or near an intolerable level, which would be catastrophic for human life as a whole. Years upon years, decades upon decades of political foot shuffling has led us to this position, the Panel concludes. If allowed to continue along its current trajectory, results of climate change could include the collapse of ice sheets, a rapid rise in sea levels, global deforestation, mass extinctions of both plants and animals, and an increased difficulty in producing enough food to feed the world’s growing population. In no way was the situation at hand spun in a positive light, something very necessary for today’s politicians to see. Fortunately, however, the Panel included a caveat, asserting that, with the proper recourse, these deleterious effects of climate change could be reversed within the next 15 years. All it will take is a massive undertaking by nearly every single country in the entire world to achieve it.

Historically, nations have struggled to come together definitively on the issue of climate change, issuing perfunctory global statutes such as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Economically, it makes sense that countries with strong industrial infrastructures wouldn’t want to curb greenhouse gas emissions, as it would interfere with their production output and thus their capital. However, there seems to be a shift in global thinking, as more nations than ever before seem willing and eager to take on the climate crisis the Earth currently is experiencing. Indeed, even China and the United States, two of the largest carbon footprint contributors in the world, have adopted legislation to help reduce carbon emissions and reduce their negative environmental impact. But even this won’t be enough. In order to make this effort worthwhile, the new global climate treaty set to be ratified in 2015 needs strong international support, especially from such big players as the United States, China, Germany, France, Britain, and Japan. Many developing nations want the new protocol to exclude greater responsibility from them, although if given enough international credibility through support from major entities, global cooperation would rise.

What might this mean for the countries? To start, carbon emissions need to be capped, with taxes, sanctions, or embargoes levied upon those who exceed their permissible amount. Additionally, international resources and domestic attention needs to be averted to renewable, clean-energy alternatives (see France and Germany as great case-points to model off of). Furthermore, a great starting spot would be to rescind investments in big oil and energy companies that utilize fossil fuels as their primary source (we’re looking to you, America). Climate change is at an inflection point, and it’s up to the international community as a whole, spearheaded by the major players, to determine if it will continue to rise, or if decades of political shrugging-off will cease and the issue of our changing climate will finally be directly and efficiently addressed.