Science for the Earth to maintain balance
Qatar is hosting the annual UN climate negotiations. The ministers of foreign affairs of the Green Group which brings together countries from different corners of the world, would like to highlight science as the key basis for further international cooperation in addressing the devastating consequences of climate change and environmental changes in general.
Due to human activities, pollution has escalated from a local problem to a global threat. Planet Earth is finite, but anthropogenic pressures on its systems may have reached a stage where major environmental change can no longer be avoided.
Climate change is fundamentally an energy problem. As regards greenhouse gas emissions, we are not moving fast enough to where we should be going. We can see and feel on a daily basis how the changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of extreme weather and climate events. At the same time, the changing climate is also causing a gradual yet significant rise in average temperatures and sea levels, which will affect us in the long run.
Economic losses from weather- and climate-related disasters have increased. Economists address global warming as a strategic issue when promoting the green economy and business strategies for investing in new technologies and approaches that mitigate climate change. Green growth will be a key driving force behind future economic growth and job creation. It provides strong incentives for entrepreneurship, clean, green R&D and test-bedding, and provides ecosystem services in the environmental and sustainability sectors. If societies and economies do not adapt, climate change will negatively affect economic growth.
In the scientific community that deals with climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) holds a special and significant place. It is a link between climate change science and public policy. The body of science on climate change and its effects has increased significantly. If clearly communicated, scientific understanding can inform decision-making that anticipates, prepares for, and responds to climate change
The message from science is that the effects of regional climate change on natural and human environments are already being felt. To provide insight, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report has identified five “Reasons for Concern”: 1) an increase in global mean temperature of 2°C above the 1990 levels would harm several unique and threatened ecosystems, in particular coral reefs and coastal regions; 2) the frequency and magnitude of many extreme climate-related events will increase; 3) the developing countries will be more vulnerable to climate change; 4) most people in the world will be negatively affected by aggregate market sector impacts; and 5) rapid warming of over 3°C would trigger large-scale singularities in the climate system, such as a breakdown of the thermohaline circulation deglaciation of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet, and climate-biosphere-carbon cycle feedbacks.
Just as climate change affects developing and developed countries in different ways, we must also be aware that women and men are affected in different ways because of political, social and economic inequalities. An effective response to climate change must incorporate an integrated gender perspective, with both women and men involved in decision-making and implementation processes.
Considering the large percentage of the Earth’s population already affected by climate change, political decisions must be based on scientific evidence. This is precisely why our countries are so keen to promote clean energy approaches while paying due consideration to what is being said by science. Cape Verde remains committed to weather-dependent wind power and solar energy. Costa Rica has unilaterally announced to the international community its commitment to reduce net carbon emissions in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2012. Iceland has already achieved a large-scale energy transition to renewables and is cooperating with the World Bank Group on bringing about geothermal utilisation in Africa. Singapore, an alternative-energy disadvantaged city-state, is mandating energy management for large energy users in the industrial sector and aims to green 80% of its buildings by 2030. The best practices of the "Slovenia reduces CO2” project have confirmed that the actions of each and every one of us contribute to the realisation of our common goals.
Being aware of the problem’s magnitude and urgency, we encourage everyone to make better use of the powerful tool of scientific knowledge for effective common work on solutions.
The Green Group is an informal group of six countries: Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Iceland, Singapore, Slovenia, and the United Arab Emirates, acting together in favour of ambitious foreign policy action in addressing climate change, promoting sustainable development, renewable energy and sustainable water management.
With special thanks to Dr Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, member of the IPCC, professor at the Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, for contributing her scientific expertise to the article.