“The missing piece of the puzzle,” according to the Paris agreement, is the mitigation response, or the effort to reduce carbon emissions enough to prevent warming of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. That being the “low limit,” as Secretary-General António Guterres has called it, the 2-degree target should be a minimum to achieve sustainable development.
Scientists attribute this key threshold to mechanisms of climate change such as the ability of land to store carbon and regional differences, such as sea levels that take longer to rise. Additionally, the fundamental nature of global warming is recognized. Already, the oceans have risen an average of about 3 inches (8 centimeters) per decade since the 1950s, and on a longer time horizon, the oceans are increasing by about 1.5 to 1.8 inches (4.8 to 4.3 centimeters) per decade.
As climate change itself becomes more human-caused, the policies to mitigate it must increasingly be focused on regulating and minimizing emission. “Increasingly, the fossil fuel transition is becoming a technical, economically feasible and operationally feasible transition,” according to the Global Carbon Project’s International Perspectives report, which was released by the Global Carbon Project in September 2017.
Meanwhile, the pace of progress is increasing, with many countries — including Saudi Arabia and Iran — cutting back on their carbon emissions, but some sectors, such as transportation, are not yet experiencing much progress. Furthermore, without large economies like the United States, the pursuit of policy to reduce carbon emissions is far more challenging than it once was.
One of the major barriers is getting the investment to invest in technology. Many countries, including the United States, China and France, have adopted climate change as a policy to drive down the cost of renewable energy, which is the most effective technology for decarbonizing the economy. But financing the transition away from fossil fuels is still a challenge. More urgently, climate change is shaping up to become a challenge for our children and grandchildren, in part due to rapid changes and nonlinear processes in our planet’s climate system.
This is a lesson well-known to everyone over the age of six — the mechanism for catastrophic climate change, also known as “Black Box,” caused by fossil fuels, can be understood only through use of a Black Box. The same is happening to the natural systems which we depend on, the forested lands and coastal lands of the global south, which support millions of people’s livelihoods, especially people who are endangered by climate change and extreme weather events. While we work to mitigate carbon emissions, we also have to act more decisively to adapt and to prevent collapse of key species that are already struggling with climate change and migration.
That is why the world’s governments have been taking steps to agree to a “Black Box,” as listed in the Paris agreement, to manage and monitor the rate of greenhouse gas emissions. And it is why the business world is increasingly facing up to the inherent dangers posed by the greenhouse gas emissions produced by it. Last year, the world’s 2,500 largest organizations produced about 9.2 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions — over three times the emissions they produced in 1990, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project. Though these companies accounted for 70 percent of global market capitalization, they could avoid 17 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions over the next 10 years by simply introducing emissions reporting standards, it was found.
Today, as we begin the fourth year of the Paris Agreement and prepare for the Dec. 1, 2018 global climate summit in Poland, the meeting of leaders on this planet carries more weight than ever. It is a meeting not only for the leaders of governments, but for the leaders of business and of civil society. Whether the global warming summit brings a decisive outcome will depend on the final language of the decisions coming out of this summit. But starting today, we are making progress, much progress, and for the first time, the worlds leaders are paying attention to what has been confirmed in the human and natural world. Climate change is still at a critical point, but this is the first year the great powers are focusing on how to address it.