Climate Change – The “Last Chance Saloon” is Now Closed
Since 1988 governments have been seriously worried about climate change and the UN has sponsored, to date, 6 science heavy assessment reports – AR1-6. The first and second reports led to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, a legally binding treaty. However, most of the bad climate boys did not sign up, in particular China and the US. As a result, the Protocol failed in its objective to establish a comprehensive strategy to limit global warming to 2ºC compared to pre-industrial times.
The reports AR3,4 and 5 firmed up the science which revealed that the situation was worse than thought. These conclusions were the basis of the Paris Agreement in 2015 by which 195 countries agreed to set out their plans to reduce emissions with the objective of restricting temperature rises to well below 2ºC with a target of 1.5ºC. Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Agreement as soon as he became President although, on President Biden’s election, it rejoined. None of the 195 countries, other than the Gambia, deposited viable “nationally determined contributions” (for cutting emissions) by the target date in 2020. Since the Agreement came into force C02 equivalent emissions have actually increased – bar a short term reduction, in 2020, caused by Covid 19 restrictions. In summary, since 1988 nothing, globally, has been achieved other than the emission of giga-tonnes of hot air from politicians.
The target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5ºC is not just a random number chosen by a committee of tree hugging mandarins. Any level of climate change will cause problems somewhere. With increasing temperatures sea levels will rise, flooding coastlines; freshwater supplies will diminish affecting agriculture, hydro-power, and so on; rainfall patterns will change for both good and bad. Disease, extinctions, migration, and war are other consequences. At 1.5ºC it is thought that the changes, which may last for hundreds of years, can, just about, be managed with the appropriate effort. Beyond 1.5ºC the changes are likely to be calamitous in some places from which unpleasant consequences will ripple out into neighbouring areas and across the globe. Many people at the COP19 conference privately believe that holding the line at 1.5ºC is now impossible. They suggest that by 2100, the rise in temperature is more likely to be 3 or even 4ºC.
If a limit of 1.5ºC was drinking at the “Last Chance Saloon” then, for Cyprus and the East Mediterranean countries the bar is now shut as we have already crossed that line. The rest of the World will follow in just a couple of years. This rise cannot be undone and things will only get worse from now.
The Mediterranean is a global “climate hotspot”. Meaning that it is and will be, one of the most badly affected areas in the world. We will have, by 2100, temperature rises of up to 5.6ºC, reduction in rainfall by as much as 22%, sea level rise of up to 1.1 metres, ocean warming of 3ºC, and its damaging acidification. These changes will increase heat stress mortality amongst the very young and elderly by a factor of 20; reduce agricultural production by up to 60%; increase the risk of wildfires and the extinction of many species of tree, plant, and fish. Tourism would be badly affected by excessive heat, inadequate water supplies, and an unattractive, arid, desert like countryside.
Whilst this may be the “worst case” assessment contained in AR6 of the IPCC the failure by the human race for more than 30 years to achieve any CO2 reductions suggests that it will be the most likely case. By 2100 there will also be 50% more (i.e. 4 billion more) humans needing food and contributing to and increasing the size of the problem. The climatic changes are not sudden but are cumulative. It is like the increasing pain of the “Condemned, In The Penal Colony”. North Cyprus alone cannot do anything to affect the changes in climate. Its CO2 footprint is minuscule on a world scale. “Local” problems, such as freshwater, energy, fisheries, and migration will need co-ordination with neighbouring countries – by itself something of a challenge in this divided island.
It is essential and very possible for North Cyprus to mitigate, manage and adapt to the developing climatic changes by adopting the appropriate policies now. Maybe the government has these policies already but they are not well known. In fact, they are wholly unknown to me.
● Cyprus has a tremendous asset with year round sunshine which could, within just a couple of years, provide all the electrical power the country needs for business, domestic, and transportation. That is all the time it takes to build commercial scale PV farms of the required power output. By using power purchasing agreements no capital is required to be supplied by the government or Kibtek.
● Cyprus is also surrounded by water which can be used to cool coastal towns as well to provide drinking water and maybe also water for agriculture. New technologies are making desalination cheaper and less dependent on high energy inputs.
● Sea agriculture, for edible seaweeds, bio-fuels, carbon capture, and fish, is also a massive opportunity. Our universities and private capital can be at the heart of these projects. We must take the plunge and innovate.
● Cool winter tourism could flourish and replace wilting hot summer tourism. No new money is required for this.
● Town planning and construction methods on the Finnish model would reduce energy use, environmental pollution, and waste plus making settlements much more human friendly. Changing the rules would not take long although rebuilding communities is, obviously a longer term project. No new money is required for this.
Work on all these things must be started now for our own sake and that of our descendants. Some tasks (e.g. energy, town planning) can be completed in just a few years. Other projects will build up over the years. Very little new technology is required and little funding is required from the government. What is required is the political will to create the framework and drive things forward.
Humans are just one species on this spaceship-earth of ours. We have a duty to protect every type of creature, whether bird, bug, fish, fowl, plant, or pest in the air, in the soil, on land, and in the sea. It is their planet too, we must not destroy it further.