According to a substantial part of the international scientific and expert community, climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our times. Statistics show there is growing damage from the extreme weather phenomena worldwide. The prospects of overcoming the environmental problems are associated with the development and implementation of a broad and coherent set of measures to adapt human activities to climate changes, and to mitigate their consequences.
Signs of global warming appear as early as the later part of the 19th century. Since then the increasing average global temperatures have caused the rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets thus causing higher sea levels.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, compared with the pre-industrial period (the 1880s), the average annual temperature has increased by 0.85 ° C, or about 1 %. Since 1880, each subsequent decade has been warmer than the previous one. 2016 became the hottest year on the historical record: temperatures reached 1.2 ° C above the pre-industrial level.
Climate scientists say 2020 was one of the warmest years on record. Persistent heat and intense wildfires in different parts of the world, a decline in Arctic sea ice extent, and the record-breaking Atlantic hurricanes became common phenomena last year. In 2021 many regions are again witnessing extreme weather events that cause natural disasters.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), higher greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions are the main driver of global warming. Scientists worldwide worry about the increasing concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), because of its ability to absorb heat emitted from our planet's surface. Almost 80 % of GHG emissions stem from traditional energy production and use. Deforestation, transformation of agricultural landscapes, intensification of agriculture, and a number of other factors are also increasing GHG emissions.
Climate change already affects the global economy. According to foreign experts, there has been a two-fold increase in damage resulting from climate change in the last 20 years. The total global economic losses are estimated at $2.9 trillion with most of the damage coming from natural disasters.
At the same time, a considerable margin of error in climate prediction remains. There are still many uncertainties related to climate changes, their impact on the ecosystem, quality of human life, and the global economy in the long term.
To predict the human impact on climate change IPCC developed a number of climate scenarios. Possible changes in world population growth, transformations of economic activities, different patterns of energy use, the introduction of new technologies, and other factors were taken into consideration. The conclusions of international experts raise serious concerns. If GHG emissions grow, the average global temperature can rise by as much as 4-6 ° C above the preindustrial baseline by 2100. It will change humans' way of life dramatically.
Experts also express their concerns over the possibility of vast amounts of methane rising up from its natural reservoirs in the seafloor and the thawing permafrost soils because of global warming. As a result, not only will the temperature on Earth rise, but also the atmosphere will change.
According to the report from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), climate change and its consequences in 2050 could cost the world economy $8 trillion annually. It also states that the global economy is projected to hit $250 trillion by 2050, as opposed to $258 trillion with no climate impact.
IPCC experts emphasize that without an immediate and significant reduction of GHG emissions its is impossible to stop global warming. They believe that the international community should focus its efforts on three main avenues: reforming the world economy to reduce GHG emissions, adapting to the ongoing climate change, and mitigating its consequences.
Based on the recommendations of international experts, a number of leading countries began to revise their environmental policies. A gradual transition to a low-carbon economy has become a key trend in the global climate agenda in recent years. The U.S. and the European Union aimed to be climate-neutral by 2050. China plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
Most likely, the transition will be carried out using a range of political and economic instruments. Among them are:
- standardization of products and production processes in terms of energy efficiency and carbon footprint;
- using and expanding the scope of the GHG emissions trading system;
- supporting investment in the development of renewable energy technologies;
- forestry development;
- changes of state policy in the fuel and energy complex, etc;
- development of programs and sets of measures to achieve climate goals;
Such measures could encourage other countries to shift to a low-carbon development trajectory thus contributing to the fight against climate change and adapting to the changes that occurred. However, a number of unresolved problems regarding the coordination of climate policies between different states remain in place. Besides, approaches to carbon neutrality also vary greatly. The coming years are likely to bring their resolution closer.
This will be facilitated by the finalization of the norms of the Paris Agreement to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). The agreement entered into force in November 2016, after 55% of the states responsible for greenhouse gas emissions had ratified it. However, the parties to the Agreement are still far from starting its full implementation.
The negotiations on the implementation of the Agreement are dragging. Currently, the main discussions are focused on the sources of funding for joint projects and possibilities of the development of an international emissions trading system as well. It is assumed that the controversies could be settled during the next round of negotiations, which is scheduled for November 2021.