NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 14 September) — In the month of August to September this year, we witness spine-chilling events across the planet that managed to snatch for some moments our daily attention from the scary coronavirus pandemic. We had Hurricane Laura that devastated the US South Coast and an equally disastrous Typhoon Haishen that brutally battered Japan and the Korean peninsula. On the other hand, long days of heavy downpours spawned deadly floods in China, Pakistan and Afghanistan and Sudan and other states in the Sahel Region of Africa, and voracious wild fires torch thousands of acres of forests, residences and properties in the state of California and Oregon of the USA since August to this very day.
The catastrophic phenomena all attests to the wicked impact of global warming and climate change. Yet, there are still those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change. And no less than the leader of the most modern and scientifically advance country in the whole world, President Donald Trump, believes that climate change is a hoax.
Non-believers of climate change argue that the climate of the planet has been changing since time immemorial; that the change on earth is a natural process.
It is. The earth is a living planet that is endlessly warmed by the sun and kept alive by the natural process or cycle of radiation, evaporation, condensation and precipitation. All living plants and animals in the planet are sustained and replenished by this cycle through the ages. Weathers, seasons and climates in specific parts or locations on earth on a given time are established by the natural processes along with the earth’s rotation on its axis and relative to its revolution around the sun.
The climate change at issue is the radical alteration of the natural processes that sustain the planet – the advent of global warming that is triggered by human-induced emission of greenhouse gases, primarily water vapor carbon dioxide and methane, produced from the burning of fossil fuel in industry, transportation and buildings, and in the massive clearing of forestlands for intensive agricultural production, crops and livestock, to meet the growing needs of an ever increasing world population.
The greenhouse gases in the atmosphere block and deflect the unused heat energy from the sun and the heat waste from human activities back to the surface of the earth, which otherwise would have dissipated to outer space. The deflected heat dries grassland and forests to high kindling temperature that is prone to start unimaginable wildfires. It is also melting the polar ice and heating unusually the oceans, which cause massive evaporation and consequent heavy precipitation.
Global warming infringes on the natural processes of radiation, evaporation, condensation and precipitation. It impacts the amount of water in the atmosphere and triggers violent downpours instead of steady showers or the seasonal rains.
The temperature disturbances in the oceans increase the power and frequency of typhoons and hurricanes; and flooding and tidal surges have recently become more common in land masses near the oceans. Moreover, the melting of polar ice raises the sea level and has already submerged some islands in the Pacific and is now threatening the safety of many coastal cities.
Efforts to alleviate, if not halt, global warming started with the United Nations’ convening of member states to reduce greenhouse emissions in the 1992 Rio Summit, 1997 Kyoto Protocol and finally in the 2016 Paris Agreement. In the Paris Agreement, 193 member- states of the United Nations agreed to institute control and reduce their greenhouse emission.
All highly industrialized or developed countries are signatories to the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Before the Paris Agreement, China and the US, were the two major emitters of greenhouse gases, at 20.9% and 17.89%, respectively. The two countries remain the major emitters at present, but the figures have changed after the implementation of the Paris Accord. The total annual emission for year 2016-2018 increased for China at 27.51% and showed a decline in US at 14.75% (World Resources Institute). Both China and the US are among the 187, out of 193 UN member-states, that finally ratified the Agreement and committed to reduce their share of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
From the figures of the World Resources Institute Climate Watch Platform, we can deduce that the US honored and complied with its greenhouse gas reduction commitment while China did not. The US, however, under President Trump reneged from the commitment and ditched the effort of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, by withdrawing from the Paris Accord on August 4, 2017, the only first world country to ever do it. The withdrawal, by UN procedure would take effect 3 years later or effective, accordingly, on November 4, 2020.
The move of Trump came not as a surprise to anyone because he is not a believer of climate change even before he became president. He has been saying it’s a hoax invented by China to outrun the US in their economic race. Joining and submitting to the Paris Agreement is against the US interest; the Agreement entails heavy cost with no clear benefits to the US; it’s anti-development, anti US.
Whatever, whether Trump and his avid followers believe in climate change or not, they have to contend with the reality of scorching heat waves in summer that engender monstrous wild fires in the West Coast and the ferocious hurricanes that have become regular visitors in the South Coast in the same season.
The scourges of climate change are real.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines)