Get Informed, Stay Inspired

As the 28th Conference of Parties begins, experts sound the alarm about the irreversible and catastrophic effects of climate change.
Science & Health

As the 28th Conference of Parties begins, experts sound the alarm about the irreversible and catastrophic effects of climate change.

The COP28 conference on climate change begins on Thursday in Dubai, with scientists issuing warnings about the irreversible and potentially catastrophic effects of global warming.

According to data from the European Union, 2023 is on track to be the warmest year ever recorded. The combination of climate change and this year’s El Nino weather pattern has contributed to the recent record-breaking temperatures. This year has been marked by intense heat, wildfires, and sudden storms, affecting every continent.

According to Tom Rivett-Carnac, a former strategist at the UNFCCC and currently with the Global Optimism climate think tank, the COP28 summit is taking place at a critical time.

This marks the beginning of the “global stocktake.” It is the first assessment of our progress towards the goals outlined in the 2014 Paris Agreement.

Rivett-Carnac stated to VOA that it is difficult to decipher the contents of the report. The goal is to lower emissions by 43%, but according to the latest prediction, they are expected to increase by 9% by the end of the decade, which could have disastrous consequences for individuals worldwide.

People walk near a logo for the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 29, 2023.

On November 29, 2023, individuals are seen walking by a symbol representing the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Climate costs

The 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as UNFCCC, takes place annually and will run for two weeks until December 12. Approximately 70,000 delegates from 197 countries are anticipated to attend, including several heads of state. However, the leaders of the United States and China, both major carbon emitters, are not scheduled to attend.

The COP summits consist of intricate discussions. The 198 nations involved in the UNFCCC, which includes almost every country worldwide, generally share the objective of decreasing global emissions to address climate change. However, there are frequent disputes over which party should shoulder the expenses of reducing emissions and how to alleviate the effects of existing climate change.

Underdeveloped countries claim that wealthier nations bear the primary responsibility for past emissions of greenhouse gases, and as a result, they should provide compensation to poorer nations for decreasing their reliance on fossil fuels. Poorer nations assert that they also require assistance in adapting to the consequences of climate change.

Rivett-Carnac stated that various nations have varying focuses. The most susceptible individuals are worried about receiving financial aid to address the crisis, while those who are less vulnerable and more affluent are focused on joint efforts to decrease emissions. Therefore, any resolution must strike a balance between these concerns.

Loss and damage

“Last year, one of the big breakthroughs was the creation of what’s called a loss and damage fund to help countries deal with the impacts that we can’t avoid. This year, we need to see a big step forward towards the operationalization of that fund,” Rivett-Carnac said.

The Paris Agreement of 2014 has the goal of keeping the increase in global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels by the year 2050.

Based on recent data from NASA and Columbia University, it has been confirmed that climate change is rapidly intensifying. It is predicted that the Earth will surpass the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit within the next ten years.

Melting ice caps

Last week, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres traveled to Antarctica prior to the COP summit in order to emphasize the pressing importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“To rescue Antarctica, to rescue Greenland, to rescue the glaciers that I’ve seen in the past, it is absolutely crucial to end the addiction to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the first source of climate change, and I hope that the next COP will be able to decide the phase out of fossil fuels with a clear time frame that is compatible to guarantee that the temperature will not rise more than 1.5 degrees [Celsius],” Guterres told the Associated Press.

FILE - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stands outside the Chilean Eduardo Frei Air Force Base in King George Island, Antarctica, Nov. 23, 2023.

On November 23, 2023, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, is seen outside the Eduardo Frei Air Force Base in King George Island, Antarctica.

Antarctica alarm

For years, researchers have been cautioning about the rapid decrease of sea ice in the Arctic. They predict that the area could potentially have no ice during the summer within one generation.

Prior to 2015, there was limited proof of ice melting in Antarctica. However, researchers now report that the pace of ice reduction is increasing at a fast pace.

According to Antje Boetius, president of the German Alfred Wegener Institute, the main challenge in climate and polar research currently is understanding the sudden acceleration of Antarctica. Can we expect this trend to continue? Is the loss of sea ice happening at an alarming rate? And what measures can be taken to address this issue?

All of these factors collectively indicate the need for a discussion on losses and damages. It is also crucial to address socioeconomic solutions, as it is unfair for those who are making efforts to reduce CO2 emissions to bear the brunt of consequences.

Boetius informed Reuters that individuals with the greatest emissions and financial resources should assist those who have experienced significant losses.

Biden, Xi absent

The upcoming COP28 conference is expected to not include the participation of the leaders of the top two polluting nations, the United States and China. These two countries alone contribute to 42 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions.

According to a U.S. government representative, President Joe Biden will not be present at the negotiations this week, with no explanation provided. It is also anticipated that Chinese President Xi Jinping will not be attending the conference in Dubai.

Biden has consistently emphasized the critical importance of addressing climate change, most recently unveiling a $6 billion investment to combat global warming through the Inflation Reduction Act.

During their November meeting in California, Biden and Xi reached an agreement to strengthen collaboration in addressing climate change. According to former UNFCC strategist Rivett-Carnac, when the U.S. and China are united and have a shared understanding of their goals, it becomes simpler for the global community to rally behind these goals.

John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, will be in charge of daily discussions on behalf of the United States.