The seriousness and gravity of the climate change report released last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cannot be overstated. The fact that the global temperature will breach the dangerous 1.5 degrees Celsius barrier within the next 20 years is a sobering thought. According to the IPCC, governments have till 2030 to meaningfully change human reliance on fossil fuels so the world reaches net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. The stakes have never been higher. The world must act now and act decisively.
If this seems like too much to do in very little time, then it would be good to recall that we have been here before, and that time we passed with flying colours. This was in 1989, when the Montreal Protocol, ratified by 197 UN member countries, came into effect. It resulted in a immediate ban on chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases that were used at the time in refrigeration. These gases were thinning Earth’s ozone layer—which protects the planet from the sun’s ultraviolet rays—at an alarming rate, and swift action was required. Well, it happened, and now we are reaping the benefits.
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A new article published in the journal Nature on 18 August, titled The Montreal Protocol Protects The Terrestrial Carbon Sink, shows how the world bought valuable time, almost inadvertently, to deal with the climate crisis by banning CFCs. The article’s research shows that apart from protecting the world from UV rays, it ensured the world wouldn’t heat up by an additional 1.7 degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial times) by 2100. This essentially makes the current effort to avert the climate crisis easier.
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In effect, the Montreal Protocol shows that governments can take meaningful action and not keep deferring the need to act decisively. According to a study published in 2020, not only has the “Ozone Holes” above the South and North Poles healed, but the damage done to the southern jet stream—a powerful wind that influences ocean currents and weather patterns in the southern hemisphere—has been repaired too. The southern jet stream had been shifting away till 2000 but resumed its normal path recently, all thanks to the ozone holes healing. Faced with an even bigger crisis now, the world’s governments need to be as decisive. After all, where there is a will, as they say, there is a way.