The average annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions between 2010-2019 were at the highest point ever recorded. The short-lived pollutants such as black carbon, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons, and methane are powerful contributors to global warming, potentially higher than carbon dioxide.
The pollutants also considerably affect the air quality, water, economy, and food security worldwide. This may be through their adverse effects on public health, ecosystems, and agriculture or their impact on climate. Fortunately, technologies and measures for reducing the short-lived climate pollutants available today are technically feasible, cost-effective, and practical. There can be immediate climate benefits of putting them in place, including improving livelihoods and health of many and achieving the global SDGs. Below is why acting against climate change is now a necessity.
Fast Action Leads To Quick Results
Acting isn't enough yet; we must act immediately. Any delayed efforts to mitigate the short-lived climate pollutants or carbon dioxide will have dire and probably irreversible consequences for the rising sea levels, global warming, public health, and food security. Because of their short lifetime within the atmosphere, reducing the short-lived climate pollutants could rapidly decelerate the rate at which the global temperatures rise, keep the warming below 20C, and complement the efforts to mitigate the emission of carbon dioxide. With the right policies, technologies, and infrastructure, we can change our behaviors and lifestyle, resulting in a reduction of 40-70% in the emission of greenhouse gases by 2050.
Prevent Global Warming
The widespread actions for reducing the short-lived climatic pollutants can avert about 0.60C of global warming by 2050. Cutting down the short-lived pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions od essential to slowing down the rate of global warming. It will also help achieve the 20C target put in place by the Paris Agreement. The IPPC found that pathways limiting global warming to 1.50C should include a deep and immediate reduction of all climate-forcing emissions, including short-lived pollutants.
Food Security Benefits
The rising global temperatures also threaten food security. There is an increase in diseases and pests and more intense and frequent floods and droughts that reduce food availability. Heat stress results in poor harvests or even crop failures. Acting now and reducing cutting down on the short-lived climate pollutants gives us the best chance of rapidly limiting the rise of global temperatures and reducing the risks associated with food security.
For instance, tropospheric ozone results in about 110M tons yearly losses of the major staple crops; maize, rice, soybeans, and wheat. This is about 4% of the entire annual crop production globally. By acting now to reduce methane, these losses can be reduced to save about $4-$33B by 2050.
Achieving The SDGs
Equitable and accelerated climate action in adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change is vital to achieving sustainable development. There are response options that could absorb and keep carbon simultaneously, helping the communities reduce the impacts of climate change. Such mitigation can limit the environmental impacts while increasing business and employment opportunities. Additionally, a shift in public transport and using renewables for electrification can enhance employment, equity, and health.
Global warming is real; that isn't in doubt. But what are we doing to mitigate the associated risks and reduce it? If you've taken any action, it is time to further up the efforts, and if you haven't, it is time to act. There are many reasons why the world should invest in reducing global warming, including those listed above. Remember, climate change results from over a century of unsustainable land and energy use, patterns, and lifestyles of production and consumption.
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