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That the Earth is warming is already unquestionable. “The warming in the climate system is unequivocal and, since the 1950s, many of the observed changes have been unprecedented in the past decades to millennia. The atmosphere and the ocean have warmed, the volumes of snow and ice have decreased, the sea level has risen ”. This is how the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarized the state of the planet.
The fifth report that this panel of 800 scientists presented at the end of 2014 is the basis that is being used for the negotiations of the climate summit in Paris, next December. The meeting is expected to produce the protocol that will allow us to fight against global warming, which is already causing havoc in the form of extreme weather events. "Without a doubt, climate change is the biggest environmental problem we face," says José Manuel Moreno, Professor of Ecology at the University of Castilla-La Mancha and one of the scientists who is part of the IPCC. "This year all the records will be broken," he adds.
"Scientifically, there are no arguments to deny warming and there is no government in the world that says otherwise", adds this expert.
Action of man
But why is the planet warming? "The human influence on the climate system is clear," the IPCC report stated. And one of the main drivers is the emission of greenhouse gases from the energy sector, transportation and the change in land use, linked to deforestation. "It is extremely probable that man is behind global warming," Moreno points out based on the conclusions of the IPCC report. That means, explains this scientist, "that there is a 95% probability."
"It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanism, variations in the Earth's orbit and axis, or the solar cycle), but numerous scientific studies indicate that most of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) emitted mainly due to human activity ”. These words are from Pope Francis. In his first encyclical - Laudato Si, released in June - the pontiff pointed to climate change as one of humanity's main challenges. And he pointed to the adverse effects that are already being detected, such as "regional natural catastrophes" and "social or even financial crises."
The encyclical of the leader of the Catholic Church is framed in a context of international declarations and political pronouncements warning of global warming and the need to stop it. A few days before Laudato Si was made public, the G7, which groups together the main economic powers, approved a declaration in which it showed its commitment to reach a world without fossil fuels, which are what generate greenhouse gases when they are they burn to produce energy.
The problem is that we emit more CO2 than the planet is capable of digesting. Scientists point out that carbon dioxide concentrations have reached levels never seen before in the last 800,000 years. And several experts point to the need to leave unexploited a third of the planet's oil reserves, half of those of gas and 80% of the coal that still remains to be extracted from the bowels of the Earth if it is to avoid reaching a critical heating point.
The IPCC, which already warns of the extreme phenomena that the world is suffering from climate change, warns that the temperature at the end of the century will have increased between 3.7 and 4.8 degrees if control measures are not adopted. And, to avoid disastrous consequences, scientists have set the maximum increase that the planet can allow in 2100 at 2 degrees. To do this, greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by between 40% and 70% in 2050 and reach a zero level at the end of this century.
"We have already lost a decade," says Alejandro Lago, director of the Unesco Chair of Territory and Environment at the Rey Juan Carlos University. In December, Paris will host the international climate summit. It is expected that from this meeting, sponsored by the UN, the emission reduction protocol will come out, which will replace the Kyoto protocol, which has now expired. As the Spanish Minister of the Environment, Isabel García Tejerina, recalled a few weeks ago, the pact that leaves the French capital "will be forever." In other words, a commitment for a few years is not expected, but rather a roadmap without an expiration date to achieve that at the end of the century the balance of emissions is zero and thus control global warming.
“We already have a compromised climate change”, alerts Professor Moreno. "Regardless of what we do from now on, the temperature will increase," he says, referring to the tons of CO2 that have already been released into the atmosphere. "We have already eaten 60% of our emissions budget, and in 20 years that budget will be exhausted." "Kyoto was nothing compared to the Paris summit," adds Moreno about the December meeting. The main economies of the planet fell from Kyoto and, among them, the most polluting, such as the United States and China. This seems not to happen in Paris. Both States have presented their emission reduction commitments to the United Nations for the coming decades.
The president of the United States, Barack Obama, unlike most of his predecessors, has established the fight against climate change as a strategic line of his last term. And the Chinese government, pressured by the harmful effects of pollution on the health of its citizens, is also making a commitment to renewable energy and has pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions.
The Paris agreement is expected to include all countries in the world. Not only to some developed economies as happened with Kyoto. By the end of September, 83 of the almost 200 governments in the world had already submitted their emission reduction commitments. The main economies are already present. The model that has been chosen on this occasion, among other things to facilitate an agreement, is that of the voluntary commitments that each country assumes before the international community.
Christiana Figueres, responsible for climate change at the UN, explained this formula to EL PAÍS in the middle of the year: “What is being built is a wide highway, with different lanes. The highway leads to the ultimate goal, which is the reestablishment of the ecological balance between emissions and the planet's ability to absorb them. The entire highway leads to that goal. But it has several lanes, because each country has to progress in a different way ”.
For now, it is already known that the commitments presented now by the different countries will not be enough to avoid exceeding the two-degree limit in 2100, because they do not imply cutting emissions by between 40% and 70% by mid-century, as proposed the IPCC. Faced with this situation, the European Union has already put on the table the need for the commitments of each State to be reviewed - always upwards - every five years.
During the next few weeks, until reaching the Paris meeting, the governments will continue negotiating the legal text. The main discrepancies may arise on the control mechanisms of emission reduction commitments and on the financing of policies to mitigate the effects of climate change. There is already a promise to create a Green Climate Fund starting in 2020 with a total of $ 100 billion each year.
Alejandro Lago appreciates that this time "there is a higher mobilization" than in other years among world leaders. But remember that "many opportunities have already been lost" in previous climate summits. "Time is short," insists José Manuel Moreno on the need for a consistent agreement to be closed in Paris. "There has to be the conviction that this is what is coming and there is no plan B," says Lago on the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Different international organizations have already pointed in this direction and are analyzing the effects on the planet's economy that a real change in the CO2 emissions model can cause. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated at 300,000 million dollars the assets in oil, gas and coal that will be devalued in the portfolios of companies and investors in 2050 only in the energy sector. And entities such as the International Monetary Fund or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have urged governments around the world to eliminate subsidies for oil, gas and coal so as not to prolong their lives.
While the Administrations discuss the Paris agreement, the effects of warming continue to be felt on the planet. "We will not solve the migration crisis or the poverty crisis without solving the climate crisis," Carole Dieschbourg, Luxembourg's Minister of the Environment, who now holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, explained in mid-September. "There is a connection between the droughts in Iraq and Syria with climate change," says Moreno. These droughts trigger crop losses. "And when people don't have what to eat, there are migrations," adds this professor, who maintains that there are several international reports that highlight the link between conflicts and global warming.