Editorial: 5 reasons for frustration — and hope — as the world prepares for another U.N. climate summit
On Sept. 23, 2019, the world will be presented with its fifth and final U.N. climate summit, this time in Madrid, Spain. While the world will have reason to be hopeful and optimistic about what the next U.N. climate summit can accomplish, many believe that the political agenda is not as conducive to a fair and equitable outcome as it has been in the past.
The world is currently divided on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While governments are more willing than ever to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency, their current policies fail to meet the targets that they set two years prior. Governments continue to take decisions that reduce global emissions regardless of climate science, causing public frustration and growing political tension.
The result of these decisions is that the world is not on track to meet its 2030 climate goals, not even close (see Figure 1 for a graphical overview of the data for the world’s current emissions). The International Energy Agency projects that the world will need to increase power generation by 38% in 2030 to meet the world’s needs for the next 10 years. Even with the growing need for new power plants, there is nothing comparable to the unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide emissions being generated today.
The failure in addressing global warming has also lead to other unintended but potentially destructive consequences. Many developing nations have been forced to implement policies and develop new technologies that produce dangerous amounts of carbon dioxide, including the burning of land and oceans. The loss of biodiversity has also been tied to the reduction in the amount of land that we can use to produce renewable energy. This loss of biodiversity has led to species extinction and changes in the patterns of rainfall, among other environmental problems.
But the problem of carbon dioxide is not just a problem for developed and developing nations. The current economic situation in America and the eurozone, for example, is having a negative impact on both.
A country like Germany is not spending money it does not have. The EU, by contrast, is spending billions on renewable energy, and the U.S. is investing $5 billion into solar and wind. This shows that the economic benefits that a country can achieve are a major factor in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging the widespread adoption of renewable energy projects.
As these countries invest in clean energy opportunities, they create jobs and opportunities for other citizens. For example, the European Union saw