Challenge of Climate Change

If you have been using social media or keep up to date with the news, you have most likely heard of climate change. This July 2022, for example, the United Kingdom registered the new highest temperature, passing 40°C for the first time in history. Therefore, there is no doubt that climate change is posing serious challenges.

Challenge of Climate Change Challenge of Climate Change

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Table of contents

    Why is our environment changing so drastically? What measures are states putting in place? What are future challenges?

    Before exploring how state actors respond to the climate change challenge, let’s try and briefly understand which are the leading causes and effects of climate change.

    Causes and effects of climate change

    In this era of climate change, it is primarily humans' activity that is shaping the environment, and the challenges created will also impact human security.

    In particular, a report from The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)1 tells us that the current human-caused global warming of 1.1°C is impacting people’s lives by causing extreme events such as intense droughts, rising sea levels, heat waves, storms, flooding, worsening air quality, damage to agriculture, melting glaciers, dying ecosystems, and displacement.

    Furthermore, one of the biggest problems with climate change is that it is now affecting areas that lack the resources to adapt to such changes and natural catastrophes.

    Himalayan glaciers are melting, and 40% of worldwide water supplies are reduced because of this, obliging inhabitants of certain regions like Kashmir, India, to migrate to suburban Northern India. This creates displacement and tension between residents and migrants.

    With human-caused global warming, we refer to the effects that industrial development has had on the planet. A perfect example is CO2 Emissions.

    CO2 Emissions

    CO2 emissions are the most significant cause of the current 1.1°C temperature increase. In turn, temperature rising cause catastrophe such as sea levels rising.

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are emissions that derive from the burning of a specific greenhouse gas, CO2. This happens when we burn fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, etc.). CO2 and other greenhouse gasses cause heat to be trapped in the atmosphere.

    To link CO2 emissions and countries’ responsibilities, we can look at the carbon footprint of different countries. To get a clear idea, we can look at 2021 CO2 per capita emissions2and find out that someone who lives in the USA, despite having a smaller population than China, is responsible for more than double the emissions of someone living in China.

    Looking at per capita emissions means considering the population's size.

    On another line, someone living in Omar, Bahrain, Qatar, or other Gulf Countries, despite their very small population, is responsible for more CO2 emissions than any other area of the world due to the gas and oil extraction activities that these countries carry. However, it is the Global North that usually sponsors such activities.

    By now, you should know that climate change is a global challenge and that, even if, at the moment, it majorly impacts the poorest areas of the world, ecosystems, resources, and infrastructure will be affected all around the globe.

    Challenge of Climate Change, Role of government in climate change, StudySmarterFig. 1 Burning coal and oil creates CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

    Climate change politics and policies

    To respond to these challenges, the politics of climate change are a crucial part of states’ politics today, both nationally and internationally. We will focus on international climate change politics.

    The politics of climate change can be seen as a group of efforts to respond to the climate change challenge on different levels of society and institutions. Such politics extend from the personal sphere (recycling, using electric vehicles, reducing the use of plastic), to a societal sphere (activism), up to a state and international sphere—the latter use policies.

    Policies have two main aims: mitigating climate change and adapting to climate change.

    UK Climate Change Strategy

    Mitigating climate change

    • Sustainable transport
    • Green and renewable energy
    • A new design approach for buildings to reduce energy consumption (e.g. solar system designed houses)

    Adapting to climate change

    • Designing systems to prevent flood risk and respond to coastal change.
    • Considering how much water will be available in the future when developing a site in a specific area.

    Some of the most effective policies of climate change are a set of regulations, laws, protocols, etc., put in place by experts to respond to the climate change challenge on a global scale.

    COP26

    An example of climate change politics is the COP26 of 2022 that took place in Glasgow.

    Some of the resolution's aims are:

    • Recognising the emergency and Accelerating action
    • Moving away from fossil fuels: lowering CO2 emissions.
    • Stepping up support for adaptation: to adapt countries to the impact of climate change

    During the COP26 Conference, mitigation policies were developed:

    • Instead of fighting over responsibilities, the US and China (two significant contributors to CO2 emissions) decided to cooperate on emissions and switch to clean energy.
    • More than 100 countries came together to decide to stop all deforestation before 2030.
    • Financial organisations have agreed to support the switch to clean and renewable energy and to stop supporting polluting industries.

    Challenge of Climate Change, Climate change politics and policy, StudySmarter Fig. 2 Deforestation is also responsible for climate change.

    The role of government in the climate change challenge

    With the above facts in mind, you should now hope that the response to climate change challenges would be globally coordinated and that higher-polluting countries such as the USA would respond effectively.

    However, democracies are failing to address the issue for two main reasons:

    1. Private corporations that exploit natural resources have the power to influence state decisions.

    The USA was not a signatory of protocols on climate change for a long time due to the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (1997), which prevented the USA from complying with the Kyoto Protocol (1992), one of the first and most significant international efforts to mitigate the climate change challenge. The reason was economic: the USA heavily relies on fossil fuels.

    2. State leaders align with non-scientific-based arguments of climate change not being challenging and focus on economic growth through natural resources exploitation. This is a form of short-term political thinking that does not consider action for future generations.

    When Donald Trump was elected president of the USA, he withdrew the USA from the 2014 Paris Climate Agreements, a crucial international coordination effort to fight the climate change challenge. The ex-president denied the existence of climate change in public appearances. On the contrary, the next elected president Joe Biden promised to meet international goals such as net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. This shows you that climate change is also a challenge because the coordination of responses can be subjected to politicians' beliefs and political aims and not always derive from scientific facts.

    Climate change challenges and solutions

    By now, you know that the most effective way to respond to the climate change challenge is on a global scale. In particular, we looked in detail at some of the politics and policies that have been proposed.

    However, many people are sceptical that such policies can respond to the urgency of the problem. Many students like you have been protesting and demanding a more impactful response from state leaders.

    Many ask for Climate Justice and believe that responding to the climate change challenge is interlinked with addressing social issues. Let's delve deeper.

    Climate Justice is Social Justice

    As you have read, climate change challenges nature but also humans. Therefore, the climate change challenge is an environmental concern as well as a social concern.

    Challenge of Climate Change, Climate Change Challenges and Solutions, StudySmarterFig. 3 Signs from a protest asking for a change in how we respond to the climate change challenge.

    The IPCC 2022 Report tells us that, yes, climate change is a global challenge, but also that it does not affect us all equally. Some parts of the world have less capacity to respond due to socio-economic factors, geographic location, and governance.

    Therefore, social justice, such as equal distribution of resources, must be central to climate justice and responses to climate change challenges. In other words, we cannot develop responses that help just a few of us.

    Climate Justice is an attempt at resolving the climate crisis in ways that not only tackle emissions or protect ecosystems but that do so in a way which creates a more just society. Justice is at the base of Climate Justice, with the aim of the movement being a just distribution of our planet's resources and of the responsibilities to respond to the climate change challenge.

    Future challenges of climate change

    From what you have read about the challenge of climate change, you now know that climate change is a global challenge, that it impacts people as much as nature, and many ask for a higher engagement with the issue.

    So what should Climate Justice look like?

    An excellent example for understanding some solutions to climate change is Nature 20303, a programme by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

    The programme connects areas where actions must be taken, also by focusing on people. This means that fighting climate change goes hand in hand with fighting for better social rights: distributing natural resources more equally, having an environmental rule of law that protects both natural and human rights (e.g., access to food), and fighting for gender equality (e.g., centralising women in sustainable development action).

    Climate Migration

    Fighting for social justice and preparing ourselves for the future challenges of climate change requires us to see how the impact is disproportionate worldwide. Migration is a consequence of this.

    Indeed, according to the United Nations Development Programme4, the ten largest displacements in 2016 were climate-related, all occurring in South, South-East, and East Asia. Therefore, climate change affects us globally, while some regions of the world are more fragile. This is because climate change changes people's exposure to natural catastrophes, and sometimes migrating is the only solution.

    The main takeaway of this aspect is that solutions must be developed through international cooperation and consider the safety of everyone on our planet.

    Challenge of Climate Change - Key takeaways

    • The current climate crisis is due to human activity on our planet.
    • CO2 Emissions cause Climate Change.
    • The politics of climate change can regard personal, societal, and governmental spheres of society and institutions.
    • Policies that respond to the climate change challenge aim to either mitigate or adapt to the crisis.
    • States cooperate internationally to design measures to respond to climate change but do not always respect them.
    • Climate change impacts people around the world but not always equally.
    • Solutions to climate change often go hand in hand with social justice reforms.
    • Climate change will impact people's lives, and many will migrate in the next future.

    References

    1. IPCC (2022) 'Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability'.
    2. Deshmukh (2021) 'Visualizing Global Per Capita CO2 Emissions'.
    3. IUCN. Nature 2030: A Union in Action.
    4. UNDP (2017) 'Climate Change, Migration and Displacement: The need for a risk-informed and coherent approach'.
    5. Fig. 1 A Smokestack Emission of an Industrial Exhaust Pipes (https://www.pexels.com/photo/city-sky-sunset-water-6675078/).
    6. Fig. 2 Deforestation in Wood on Sunset (https://www.pexels.com/photo/deforestation-in-wood-on-sunset-6175399/).
    7. Fig. 3 Climate change protest sign ( https://www.pexels.com/photo/climate-people-street-crowd-2990610/).
    Frequently Asked Questions about Challenge of Climate Change

    What are the challenges of climate change? 

    Climate change creates natural catastrophes such as flooding, sea levels rising, and temperature risings. 

    Why is climate change a global challenge? 

    Climate change is a global challenge because even if the bigger polluting countries contribute to most of the causes of climate change, the effects do not affect us all equally. 

    What is the biggest problem with climate change? 

    The biggest problem with climate change is that it is now affecting areas of the world that lack the resources to adapt to such changes and natural catastrophes. 

    What makes climate change a difficult problem? 

    Climate change is a difficult problem because states do not always follow the measures that scientists and international cooperation efforts have designed. 

    What are the ten effects of climate change? 

    The ten effects of climate change are intense droughts, rising sea levels, heat waves, storms, flooding, worsening air quality, damage to agriculture, melting glaciers, dying ecosystems, and displacement.  

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is the main cause of temperature rising? 

    Which is the country that emits more CO2 when you consider per capita carbon footprint? 

    What is CO2? 

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