Nearly one in three Americans live in a county hit by a weather disaster during the past three months. On top of that, 64 percent of all Americans live in places that experienced a multi-day heat wave, according to analysis by the Washington Post. At least 388 people in the United States have died because of hurricanes, floods, heat waves and wildfires since June.

After decades of studying the climate crisis, scientists tell us that human beings can prevent the damage it causes. The people of the world need to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We can do that by ceasing to burn fossil fuels, like coal, gas and oil, and instead rely on renewable energy, like wind, geothermal and solar.

The nations of the world are meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, for the 26th annual Conference of Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The first goal is to enable nations to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by at least 2050, which will help ensure that the global temperature will not increase more than 1.5 degrees Celsius since the late 1800’s. Achieving net zero means there is a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and that most existing greenhouse gases are removed. The nations of the world agreed to that goal in the Paris Accords of 2015.

Countries have been asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets (called Nationally Determined Contributions) that would help the world achieve net zero by 2050. Most countries announced their plans to reduce emissions before the summit started, so we already had a sense of where we are. But during COP26, we can expect a flurry of new announcements.

It is likely that nations will be asked to:

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• accelerate the phase-out of coal;

• curtail deforestation;

• speed up the switch to electric vehicles;

• encourage investments in renewables.

The United States submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the U.N. in April. It sets an economy-wide target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to 50-52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. It may submit a second NDC before conference is finished.

The second goal of COP 26 is fixing those things that the climate crisis has harmed to protect human communities and natural habitats – a task called “adaptation.”

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The third goal is encouraging developed nations to increase their financing for developing countries to help them adapt to the damage, harm and loss that climate change has caused. The developed world must make good on its promise to raise and give at least $100 billion in climate funding per year by 2020. However, this goal has still not been met and could slip to 2023.

The fourth goal is to work together to deliver climate solutions. That includes the religious community and all non-governmental organizations. Both in Glasgow and afterward, we all must accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through the collaboration of governments, businesses and civil society.

COP26 will be a success if the reductions pledged by the nations of the world will put us back on track to achieve net zero greenhouse gases by 2050 and keep the increase of 1.5 Celsius within reach. The world will also need specific pledges to end the use of coal and gasoline-burning automobiles. The developing world will need real financial support from the developed world to ensure that they can cut their own greenhouse gas emissions and fix the things that are harmed or destroyed by the climate crisis.

The world knows what has to be done. We need the will to do it.

— Special to the Press Herald

 


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