Mitigating Climate Change: Are We Doing Enough?

A recent study has found that urgent societal change is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change, but that this change is not happening quickly enough. The Hamburg Climate Outlook, an annual publication from the University of Hamburg in Germany, states that keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as established in the Paris Agreement, is implausible for social reasons rather than technical ones. Over 140 nations are represented in the report.

The primary issue in mitigating climate change is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming. Mitigation strategies include building retrofits for increased energy efficiency, switching to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, promoting sustainable transportation methods like electric vehicles and biofuels, and sustainable utilization of forests and land. Traditional fuels such as coal and timber are still used by billions worldwide, posing a threat to both the environment and human health, particularly for women and children.

By 2035, over half of the world’s population will be living in nations with rapidly increasing energy needs. These populations require green power that won’t harm them or the planet. To remain within the safety limits established through the Paris Agreement, global emissions must peak by 2030 and rapidly decrease to net zero by 2050, as stated in the 2018 special report Global Warming of 1.5°C by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Here are five strategies for coping with the climate crisis:

1. Early warning systems: Providing warnings for events such as heat waves or storms can significantly reduce harm. Early warning systems offering climate forecasts are among the most economical adaptation measures, returning around nine dollars in total benefits for every dollar spent. Early warnings allow residents to prepare for potential flooding by placing sandbags in front of doors, stockpiling supplies, or even fleeing in the worst-case scenario.

2. Safeguarding water resources: Water plays a central role in the climate change narrative, with floods, droughts, increasing sea levels, and wildfires all posing threats. By 2030, one in two people will experience extreme water scarcity. Investing in more efficient irrigation is necessary since 70% of all freshwater withdrawals occur in agriculture. Repairing municipal water leaks could save between 100 and 120 billion cubic meters of water by 2030. Integrated Water Resource Management encourages governments to create water management plans that consider the complete water cycle, from its creation to its disposal. Continued funding of rainwater harvesting devices is necessary to increase their accessibility.

3. Ecosystem restoration: In 2021, UNEP and its partners began the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a worldwide effort to repair the planet’s damaged ecosystems. This endeavor will not only reduce atmospheric carbon but also boost protective “ecosystem services.” Restoring urban forests can help lessen the severity of heat waves, providing relief to vulnerable communities. Mangrove trees can reduce the height and power of waves, making them less of a threat during storm surges. Mangrove preservation is also 1,000 times cheaper per kilometer than barrier construction. By re-greening mountain slopes, those at higher elevations can be safeguarded from climate-induced avalanches and landslides.

4. Climate-resilient infrastructure: Infrastructure that can adapt to endure the stresses of a changing climate includes bridges, roads, and power lines. Eighty-eight percent of the estimated expenses of adapting to climate change are attributable to infrastructure. A World Bank report estimates that developing and middle-income countries could reap total benefits of $4.2 trillion from investments in climate-resilient infrastructure, or about $4 for every $1 spent. Regulatory standards, such as building codes and spatial planning frameworks, push to ensure the private sector is conversant with climate risks, projections, and uncertainties, all tools for encouraging investments in climate-resilient infrastructure.

5. Boost green energy use and energy conservation: Access to electricity is crucial, with about 775 million people worldwide lacking access to power and over two billion using solid fuels like wood, charcoal, and coal for cooking, contributing to dangerous levels of indoor air pollution. Different organizations are committed to ensuring universal access to modern energy sources, boosting the rate of progress in energy efficiency, and increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. Increases in energy productivity are essential. Every GWh of unwasted energy translates to energy that doesn’t have to be generated. As renewable energy costs decrease, it is becoming more accessible to the general public. Creating large-scale renewable energy utilities is now competitively priced or even less expensive than building fossil fuel plants in many nations.

To combat climate change effectively, government and corporate leaders worldwide, especially those from the most polluting industries, must work together. While individuals can do their share, collective action is the best way to address the issue. The solutions are at hand; all that remains is to put them into action.