Current Affairs

It’s here

With great fanfare, China and the US – the world’s largest carbon emitters – announced on the sidelines of the G20 summit in September that they would ratify the Paris climate change agreement, formally committing them to stop catastrophic temperature rises. They do not have long to act.

With great fanfare, China and the US – the world’s largest carbon emitters – announced on the sidelines of the G20 summit in September that they would ratify the Paris climate change agreement, formally committing them to stop catastrophic temperature rises. They do not have long to act.

2015 was a record-setting year, with average temperatures more than 1ºC above pre-industrial levels – halfway to the 2ºC limit that world leaders have pledged not to breach. Carbon dioxide emissions rose by their largest recorded year-on-year jump. Other indicators, including sea surface temperatures and arctic sea ice coverage, showed alarming deterioration. These grim trends have continued into 2016, with month after month of record-breaking temperatures.

Behind the data is an ever-growing list of real human consequences. Unpredictable weather conditions in Sub-Saharan Africa are undermining progress made on food security. Across Asia, water stress and rising temperatures, exacerbated this year by an unusually strong El Niño weather event, have damaged bread baskets and forced people to move to choked megacities.

Hotter, wetter climates mean the range of the mosquitoes that spread dengue fever, yellow fever and the zika virus is increasing.

In the Pacific, whole countries live under the threat of inundation, and while the big nations captured the headlines with their announcement, perhaps the most significant signature on the accords was the first: Fiji, a small island nation, ratified the Paris agreement in February, more cognisant than anywhere else of the urgency of action.