Today, we are racing towards tipping points in earth systems, for example in West Antarctica. We have reached societal tipping points with thousands of people on the streets, protesting for more ambitious climate policies. With all this pressure, ECO asks itself: What needs to happen for the negotiations to reach a tipping point themselves, to speed up and adequately address the climate crisis we are facing?
We are in the middle of a climate crisis – the devastating impacts of climate change are already being felt on all continents, in all regions. Looking at Asia, we see increasing stress on freshwater resources in India. The megacity of Chennai faces extreme water shortages, due to a drought in Tamil Nadu. Water deliveries have to be accompanied by the police. In the countryside, people have left their villages as there is no water left, nor do water deliveries reach them.
Looking at Europe, Germany, France and other countries are experiencing extreme heat with temperature records for the month of June likely to be broken. In Switzerland and Italy, storms, hail, and floods caused severe damage. Looking at North America, Colorado got 60 cm of snow on the first day of summer. There hasn’t been unusual snowfall like this since 1928.
Looking at Africa, Cyclones Idai and Kenneth recently killed more than 1,000 people in Mozambique and neighbouring countries, forcing the sixth poorest country in the world to take on an extra US$118 million in debt. Even if the reasons for the loss and damage caused by these extreme weather events are multi-causal, it gives us a taste of a world that has warmed over 1.5°C.
On top of these extreme events, there are many indications that we are quickly approaching tipping points in our earth system. Looking at the Arctic, in Siberia, thousands of methane bubbles are about to explode. A recent study from NASA reveals that abrupt thawing process, leading to an influx of permafrost-derived methane in the atmosphere, may speed up the Arctic permafrost thawing much more than previously estimated. The problem is that these releases of carbon dioxide and methane gas that could result from abrupt thawing of Arctic permafrost are not currently accounted for in climate projections.
Looking at West Antarctic
a, we can observe extreme glacier melting, especially the grounding line of Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers are retreating very fast. Scientists are even discussing whether this tipping point has already been reached and if this is an unstoppable process. A collapse of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet could lead to a 3-meter sea level rise.
Does this list give you the creeps? Well, it should! And the list goes on: in May, we reached a 10 million year record-high atmospheric CO2 concentration of 415ppm. And what is even more frightening is that despite these alarming shifts all around the world, negotiations in Bonn remain ridiculously slow. We are running out of time. If we continue at current emissions levels, the 1.5°C goal will be out of reach within two to three years.
On today’s Loss & Damage day, ECO urges all negotiators to take ADEQUATE action now! You have done great work in the past – the Paris Agreement sets an irreversible direction for countries to tackle the climate crisis and pursue sustainable development. It’s now about taking action towards the commonly agreed long-term goals: limiting temperature rise, building resilience and re-directing financial flows.
All countries, especially big emitters, need to commit to enhanced ambition that will catalyse the transformational change required to set the world on a 1.5°C pathway. And given the adverse impacts, some of which are already being felt, adaptation must be an integral component of an effective strategy to address climate change.
However, even if GHG emissions are substantially reduced, climate change will lead to unavoidable loss & damage by extreme weather events and slow-onset changes. The most vulnerable people and countries must be supported, this includes financially, in dealing with climate change impacts that can no longer be prevented, and to which these countries contributed the least.