“‘Unprecedented’ is a word commonly used.”
COP26 (the 26th Conference of the Parties), held in Glasgow last month, was intended to accomplish three things, viz., (1) conduct a review of the global warming experience since the 2015 COP in Paris, (2) validate compliance with the 2015 pledges of financial assistance to the small, at-high-risk countries and (3) obtain confirmation of the deadlines offered in Paris by the industrial countries for their economies’ attainment of emissions-free status.The years immediately preceding the Paris COP had witnessed the occurrence of extreme weather events across the globe. In the US there have been a number of such events; the most destructive of these included hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the southern states of the US, and storm Sandy, which caused enormous damage to the U.S.’s northeastern states. The most destructive typhoon to hit the western Pacific seaboard, typhoon Yolanda—known internationally as “Haiyan”—smashed its way through the Tacloban City area, killing nearly 7,000 Filipinos and creating a swath of devastation.
Elsewhere on the planet, on every continent, droughts, severe flooding, forest fires, tornadoes, melting glaciers and landslides have been assaulting regions and countries, leaving enormous loss and damage – both to lives and to resources – in their wake. In most of these global-warming events the word used to describe their occurrence has been ‘unprecedented’: never before had regions and countries experienced climatic happenings of such scope and severity. And precedent-settings are now following more closely upon one another.
Since the end of COP26, two climate-change events of unprecedented character have taken place. In the US, a December tornado spanning no less than six states and over 200 kilometers in width wiped out towns and left a broad trail of destruction and loss; the tornado has been described as unprecedented.
This country has just experienced the wrath of super-typhoon Odette, which smashed its way across the central part of the nation, leaving prostate cities and towns in six regions; the typhoon’s reaching, and causing great damage to, Palawan was without precedent in modern times.
After years of discussion of the most effective approach to global-warming reduction – in Rio, Copenhagen and other previous COPs – all the world’s countries agreed in Paris in 2015, to lay down timetables for their economies’ attainment of zero carbon emission. The biggest polluters – the US, China, India and the European Union – joined the small economies in pledging to completely eliminate carbon emission by a specified year.
The end-years for the attainment of zero carbon emission have differed from continent to continent and from country to country. Most of those who made pledges have offered 2030 as the end-year of their zero-emissions timetable; that’s eight entire years away. But other countries, including India and China, have pledged end-years that are much farther away, e.g., 20150, even 2075.
Ideally, the universal goal for the attainment of zero greenhouse-gasses emission should be 2030. At the rate that the disaster scenario is unfolding, with extreme climatic events following one another with increasing frequency and ferocity, the planet will probably be in a far worse state by the time 2050 and other far-off target years get here.