Climate change protest, what is it all about?

 

Climate change has been a public concern since years ago, maybe more than a decade. It gradually became a serious stressor and led to the Paris Agreement signed in 2016. The fact that there are serious criticisms about the sufficiency of the Paris Agreement and the fact that some countries left or did not sign the agreement is not subject here. The agreement set the goal to limit the average global temperature rise to 2 oC above the average global temperature of the pre-industrial era and try to keep it at 1.5 oC (www.unfccc.int). As a matter of fact, right now, a 1 oC rise in average global temperature is confirmed based on observed evidence (www.climateatlas.ca). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC – 2 oC is a borderline beyond which catastrophic outcomes are expected (www.ipcc.ch/2019/). This includes floods, seriously damaged ecological systems and so on.

 

The reason for the rush to reach the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level at or below the pre-industrial era is, in fact, threefold. First, already some irreversible damages have happened. Second, there is a tight schedule to reach the climate goals and it demands quick and pragmatic action, rather than policies, resolutions, and aspiratory promises. The timetable set, for example in the UK, is zero GHG emission by 2050. However, those who protest these days, ambitiously want to reach this goal by 2025 or it is too late. Third, there are pollutants that are called short-lived pollutants, such as methane that is naturally produced in landfills and cattle farms. These pollutants could be a hundred times more damaging to the Earth in terms of boosting global warming. There are fewer amounts of these pollutants emitted compared to the CO2, but they are harmful. As the name suggests, the effect of these pollutants can be dissipated faster than, for example, CO2 which stays in the atmosphere for years. Both these pollutants need to be controlled. As a matter of fact, getting rid of short-lived pollutants is easier as they can disappear fast – if not reproduced again! – and stop contributing to global warming. These are pressing issues for people. What they need to know is the truth and real action. This article does not suggest joining the so-called “Extinction Rebellion”, a movement in the UK, New Zealand and elsewhere. It is a personal choice. However, it should be stressed that enforcing unfair regulations (under pressure of the public movement, the Paris Agreement or simply because of lack of knowledge) can have serious adverse results. Last week the Netherlands saw the largest ever traffic jam in its history, more than 1000 km. It was because the farmers protested confining climate regulations against them. They believe that while their contribution to GHG emission is modest, they are much more affected by regulations compared to major industrial GHG emitters. Almost 90% of the Dutch supported their farmers. It is soon to judge, but perhaps from now on the Dutch government would have difficulties to justify new climate regulations. In other words, any new climate regulation, while being practical and efficient, needs to apply in a manner that does not cause an unexpected serious limitation to stakeholders. Therefore, while really quick actions are required, the balance should be paramount. That is the key to mobilize people with delicately reflected new climate regulations.