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Using Climate Science in Conference of Parties Meetings

Context:

Since 1995, when the inaugural United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) took place, there has been a significant transformation in its nature. Initially characterized by formal, exclusive gatherings attended by bureaucrats and technocrats, these events have evolved into lively spectacles resembling carnivals.

Relevance:

GS3- Environment

Mains Question:

COP meetings must use climate science to promote justice and equity. Discuss. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

Conference of Parties:

The COP serves as the governing body of the UNFCCC, with representation from all member States of the Convention. Its role involves evaluating the implementation of any legal instruments adopted by the Convention.

Enhanced Participation in Recent COPs:

  • While the official aspects have expanded, with the UN climate secretariat becoming more complex through the addition of subsidiary bodies, working groups, and intricate agenda items, there has also been a surge in participation from various quarters.
  • Activist groups, indigenous communities, businesses of all sizes, consultancies, traders, and a substantial media presence have become integral parts of the proceedings.

Impact of this Shift:

  • This shift can be viewed positively, attributed to a growing awareness of the existential threat posed to humanity by anthropogenic climate change, amplified over centuries of industrialization.
  • Notably, climate denialists, once influential in power circles just a decade ago, now find themselves marginalized and relegated to the darknet, akin to Flat Earthers.
  • Their positions have been filled by newcomers and entrepreneurs from the fossil fuel era who recognize opportunities in advocating for renewable energy solutions.
  • Presently, every country publicly declares its commitment to the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically reduced to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C.

Climate Science:

  • Climate science is the human endeavor to comprehend the natural forces governing the climate. The climate of a planet is influenced by the Sun’s energy reaching its surface, a variable factor dependent on latitude and season.
  • Ultimately, the climate is shaped by the intricate interaction of this energy with the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land masses.
  • The field of climate science is not a recent development. For over two centuries, scientists have been contemplating the factors influencing the Earth’s temperature.
  • This exploration began in the 1820s with the work of the French mathematician and physicist Joseph Fourier, who postulated that the Earth’s atmosphere played a role in trapping heat energy emitted from the planet’s surface.
  • In the 1850s, Irish chemist John Tyndall demonstrated that water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases absorb infrared radiation.
  • By the 1890s, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius illustrated that the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide resulting from coal combustion could lead to Earth’s eventual warming.
  • Today, sophisticated computer models running on supercomputers accurately depict how climate responds to changing conditions.

The Delay in Addressing Major Issues:

  • Despite multiple acknowledgments in COP, there remains a lack of urgency in curbing the use of fossil fuels, the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The fact that it has taken almost three decades for COP to recognize this reality, as outlined in the Dubai Consensus, indicates that political expediency and strategic maneuvering have unfortunately turned climate science into a weapon.
  • Consequently, nations accountable for the majority of human-emitted carbon highlight record temperatures and their correlation with increasing emissions when advocating for emission reductions from developing countries.
  • However, they are unwilling to acknowledge this connection when developing and island nations request financial support as reparations for the damage already caused by climate change.
  • The Loss and Damage Fund, celebrated as a success at COP 28 with commitments totaling $750 million, has been approved with the condition that it should not be construed as compensation for historical carbon pollution.
  • The ‘Loss and Damage’ (L&D) fund serves as a financial instrument specifically created to tackle the irreversible repercussions of climate change that cannot be averted or lessened through adaptation initiatives.
  • Adaptation, being the proactive response to climate change, involves strategic decision-making by communities and nations to ready themselves for and manage challenges posed by climate-related changes.
  • The fund acknowledges and seeks to redress the tangible losses experienced by communities, nations, and ecosystems as a result of the effects of climate change.
  • These losses go beyond financial considerations, impacting fundamental aspects such as human rights, well-being, and environmental sustainability.

Conclusion:

A significant associated worry is that COP meetings are labeled as ‘historic’ solely when they introduce new action-oriented terms like ‘phase out,’ ‘phase down,’ and ‘transition’ in the context of emission reduction. However, they appear mundane when addressing the minimal allocation of funds and technology for the detoxification from fossil fuels. It is crucial for upcoming meetings to employ scientific insights to advocate for justice and equity, thereby bolstering confidence in one of the few functional multilateral processes.


March 2024
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