The Issue of Climate Change: What Lies Ahead
16th September 2020
Since the pre-industrial era, the land surface air temperature has increased almost double the global average temperature. Change in climate, including rises in intensity and frequency of extremes, has adversely affected terrestrial ecosystems and food security, and have contributed to desertification and land degradation in many regions. Even though the overall economy is decarbonising, meaning that less carbon is emitted per unit of output, the carbon emissions are constantly rising over the decade.
"Even though we have taken steps in the international arena, we have not taken nearly enough steps to reach the targets of our international policy," said professor William Nordhaus of Yale University in a speech. He said that even if the countries meet their commitment as stated in the Paris Accords, we are nowhere near meeting the 2°C goal decrease in the global temperature.
Some solutions proposed to controlling the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) include harmonising the carbon prices around the world, i.e. raising the price of emission of CO2 in every sector, and every country. The ways this can be done is by cap and trade system, or a carbon tax. To reach the 2°C target, the cost imposed needs to be around 100 dollars per tonne. As for now, about 80% of the carbon emitted globally is free of charge. According to William Nordhaus, the International Climate Policy is a dead end because the agreements are voluntary, and there are no penalties for not meeting the targets.
According to the book Economics of Climate Change, the transition to a low-carbon economy will bring challenges for not just competitiveness, but also opportunities for growth. Schemes to support the development of low-carbons of a range and technologies of higher efficiency are required urgently. Renewables such as solar energy and wind energy have not been able to achieve a lot of success yet, because of the high cost, and their intermittency.
Another alternative some scientists believe is nuclear energy. American professor James Hansen in an interview said, "My concern about nuclear power has been the effect of backwards-looking 1970s thinking that has poisoned public perception of nuclear power. Rational scientific arguments that modern nuclear power has the potential to be among the safest energies with the smallest environmental footprint seem to be inadequate to overcome the psychology of “nuclear fear” that has been promoted successfully by various groups and eagerly supported by the media".
(Sources: Ipcc.ch, BBC, Professor William Nordhaus's speech at University of Zurich, Economics of Climate Change by Michael Jacobs)
Edited by Pratheek S