U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in September: “Floods, droughts, heatwaves, extreme storms and wildfires are going from bad to worse, breaking records with alarming frequency. Heatwaves in Europe. Colossal floods in Pakistan. Prolonged droughts in the United States.”

After decades of studying the climate crisis, scientists tell us that human beings need to significantly reduce the production of greenhouse gas emissions, which limit heat from going into the atmosphere. 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.

In 1992, the nations of the world met in Rio de Janeiro and agreed that they had a responsibility to respond to climate change and that they would meet once a year. The meetings are called the Conference of Parties. The 27th such meeting is being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from Nov. 6 to Nov. 18.

In 2021, COP 26 was held in Glasgow, Scotland, with almost 200 nations attending. Though the conference left a number of tasks undone, several good things happened:

• This summit secured new agreements to end deforestation. The leaders of 140 countries pledged to end deforestation by 2030 in a sweeping accord aimed at protecting 90% of the world’s forests, which absorb carbon dioxide and slow global temperature rise.

• In addition, 122 countries, including half of the world’s top 30 methane-emitting countries, signed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30%.


• China and the U.S. pledged to do more to cut emissions this decade.

Six automobile companies reminded the world that they will phase out gas-powered cars by 2035 and instead produce electric vehicles.

• Over 40 countries pledged to phase out coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the U.S. did not sign that agreement.

However, COP 26 was not all successes. All nations were asked to make promises about the amount of greenhouse gases they would cut by 2030 and 2050. When all of those gases were added up, nations were only able to ensure that the temperature of the globe would increase 2.4 degrees Centigrade by the end of the century. The Paris agreement made it very clear that the global temperature had to only increase 1.5 degrees Centigrade. Because of that failure, it was agreed that the world’s nations will have to set new goals for COP 27 in Egypt.

Another frustration at Glasgow: The developed nations agreed to provide $100 billion by 2020 and then $100 billion each year until 2025 for developing countries to help them become resilient to the harmful effects of the climate crisis and to convert to renewable energy. Sadly, nations did not even provide the first required $100 billion that was due in 2020.

The third failure was the developed nations’ refusal to fund what’s known as “loss and damage.” The climate crisis has produced serious losses especially for the developing world. For instance, a number of island nations are threatened dramatically by rising sea level rise which will inundate them soon. These nations will need to move or take other drastic steps.

Those supporting the loss and damage fund claim that the developed world, which caused the climate crisis, should provide the funding to help the developing world find solutions. The developed world worries about ongoing legal responsibilities to pay the loss and damage costs if they agree to take that step.

There will be discussion of Africa’s challenges because COP 27 will be held on that continent. Africa today loses between $7 billion and $15 billion a year to climate change and doesn’t have the financing it needs to adapt to this problem.

This week, I will be in Egypt for COP 27; I will let readers of this section know what happens. Turning the 2021 failures into successes will be an important goal for the nations of the world.

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