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Tackle climate change or face the heat

British broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough has stated that climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years, and he is absolutely right.

The situation is dire because, as Attenborough noted, the issue could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of "much of the natural world. It has become a matter of now or never for the world community."

Just a few days ago, the United Nations sounded the alarm on the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. A string of scientific reports and studies indicate greenhouse gas emissions should be drastically slashed or the consequences could be disastrous.

COP24, the two-week 24th conference of the parties of the United Nations Climate Change Convention that has taken off in Katowice, Poland, is the most critical event on climate change since the 2015 Paris agreement.

It’s unfortunate that representatives of some of the most powerful countries and biggest polluters are absent. The United States has gone to the extent of quitting the UN climate process.

Yet, on the positive side, most other countries are not giving up on their responsibility and doing their best to alleviate the situation. In fact, to maximise the chances of success in Poland, technical talks began on Sunday, a day early, with delegates from nearly 200 nations debating how to meet the Paris target of limiting global warming to between 1.5 and 2.0 degrees Celsius.

To contain warming at 1.5˚C, man-made global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will need to fall by about 45 percent by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach "net zero" by mid-century.

Even with just one degree Celsius of warming so far, Earth has been bombarded with raging wildfires, widespread crop failures and super-storms exacerbated by rising sea levels. If that does not prompt leaders to unite and act, what else will? It is true that expectations for Katowice are low. To have any hope of reaching the 1.5˚C goal by the end of the century, emissions from fossil fuel use need to be halved by 2030. The host nation Poland itself is committed to coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels.

"But considering the magnitude of the challenge, any effort aimed at finding a viable solution should be welcomed. World leaders should realize that time is running out on a subject that would affect each and every individual on earth, besides other living organisms.


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