The Climate I. A New Green Hope?

Council on Pacific Affairs Exclusive – 28 DECEMBER 2021 – Nikolay N. Goryachev, CPA

The coronavirus pandemic has made serious adjustments to world politics. This somewhat shifted the focus of the world community’s attention from climate issues to more pressing and urgent problems that need to be addressed now.

However, it is very likely that if the humanity had avoided this scourge, then one of the main issues on the world agenda now would be the things related to climate change and green energy. The Climate – a main question for the future.

Despite the pandemic, the year 2020 was one of new norms. As the world witnessed the tragic impacts of a pandemic, communities also experienced the health and well-being benefits stemming from the sudden decline in the use of fossil fuels, such as higher air quality and bluer skies. People also understood, collectively, the importance of governments mobilizing quickly in the face of a crisis – in response not only to the immediate public health challenge and the economic recession that followed, but also to longer-term crises related to air pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss. As a result, 2020 was also a year of accelerating ambition. The total number of national targets for achieving net zero emissions (including targets already in law, proposed and drafted) covered countries responsible for more than 80% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The Western public consensus increasingly reflects the emerging vision to move beyond fossil fuels, which are responsible for nearly 90% of CO2 emissions, although this value has not been proven. Under pressure from its citizens, civil society and the courts, countries are being forced to strengthen their own climate plans, while fossil fuel companies are losing legal and shareholder battles. At the same time, businesses are buying ever larger amounts of renewable energy. The idea of replacing traditional energy with green one is too tempting to abandon it.

Therefore, the demand for a global energy transition is becoming more and more intrusive. This trend is complemented by more and more radical ideas, for example, about the reduction of livestock farms and the replacement of meat by its counterparts in the human diet. The issue of using alternative energy sources is becoming more and more politicized. Increasingly, we have confronted with the opinion that fighting emissions is the only way to stop global warming, and human activity is the only factor provoking an increase in the temperature of the planet.

But is that true? The questions of the state of the Earth’s climate, the use of green energy, etc. are complex and extensive enough to be covered in one essay. Therefore, we will have to turn to the pages of the history of mankind as a species, and leave politics for the later.

It was under the influence of climate change that hundreds of thousands of years ago, the human ancestors were forced to leave their usual habitats. Their entry into the vastness of the African savannah eventually led to an evolutionary leap, and gradually we became who we are now – the homo sapiens. Throughout the entire process of evolution, climate changes has accompanied humanity. And in the end, the inquisitiveness of the human mind prompted scientists to find the patterns of changes in the Earth’s climate.

As a result, in climate science, there is such a thing as Milankovitch cycles. Milankovitch cycles describe the collective effects of changes in the Earth’s movements on its climate over thousands of years. The term is named for Serbian geophysicist and astronomer Milutin Milanković. In the 1920s, he hypothesized that variations in eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession resulted in cyclical variation in the solar radiation reaching the Earth, and that this orbital forcing strongly influenced the Earth’s climatic patterns. Proceeding from the fact that climatic changes on our planet occur cyclically, there are various models of these changes. The difference in them lies only in the time intervals between global cooling (glaciation) and warming. An often-cited 1980 orbital model by J. Imbrie predicted the long-term cooling trend that began some 6,000 years ago will continue for the next 23,000 years. More recent work suggests that Earth’s orbit will become less eccentric for about the next 100,000 years, so changes in this insolation will be dominated by changes in obliquity, and should not decline enough to permit a new glacial period in the next 50,000 years.

         But global warming is what we are seeing now, and it bears little resemblance to the ice age. In recent decades, there has been a fierce debate in scientific circles about the essence of global warming. In particular, about the role that the anthropogenic factor plays in it. Gradually formed a scientific consensus about global warming. Earth is warming and that warming is mainly caused by human activities. The current scientific consensus keypoints are: Earth’s climate has warmed significantly since the late 1800s. Human activities (primarily greenhouse gas emissions) are the primary cause. Continuing emissions will increase the likelihood and severity of global effects. People and nations can act individually and collectively to slow the pace of global warming, while also preparing for unavoidable climate change and its consequences.

This scientific opinion is expressed in synthesis reports, by scientific bodies of national or international standing, and by surveys of opinion among climate scientists. Individual scientists, universities, and laboratories contribute to the overall scientific opinion via their peer-reviewed publications, and the areas of collective agreement and relative certainty are summarized in these respected reports and surveys. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (the latest one) was completed in 2014. Its conclusions are summarized below: Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Human influence on the climate system is clear. It is extremely likely (95–100% probability) that human influence was the dominant cause of global warming between 1951 and 2010. Increasing magnitudes of global warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts. A first step towards adaptation to future climate change is reducing vulnerability and exposure to present climate variability.

The overall risks of climate change impacts can be reduced by limiting the rate and magnitude of climate change. Without new policies to mitigate climate change, projections suggest an increase in global mean temperature in 2100 of 3.7 to 4.8 °C, relative to pre-industrial levels (median values; the range is 2.5 to 7.8 °C including climate uncertainty).

The current trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions is not consistent with limiting global warming to below 1.5 or 2 °C, relative to pre-industrial levels. Pledges made as part of the Cancún Agreements are broadly consistent with cost-effective scenarios that give a “likely” chance (66–100% probability) of limiting global warming (in 2100) to below 3 °C, relative to pre-industrial levels.

So yes, humanity has an impact on climate change. And this influence is large enough to cause concern. It is absolutely clear, that these concerns pushing the governments and business to change their energy and trying to resolve climate issues. Nevertheless, it is not so light process – carbon neutrality strikes back.


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