Climate Change- Learning From Our European Neighbours
The 28 countries in the European Union continue to lead the world fight on climate change when, earlier this month, they announced steps to tighten the screws on carbon trading. Following a year of internal wrangling, an agreement was reached making it more expensive for businesses in the EU to burn fossil fuels. Under the cap-and-trade scheme, companies pay per ton of carbon dioxide they release into the atmosphere, with the pollution certificates traded on the market.
EU Charging Ahead in Efforts to Halt Climate Change
While many around the world argue whether a case for climate change (and in particular, global warming) even exists, the EU is way ahead of the field with its latest efforts to beef up its carbon trading system.
In fact, of the top 10 climate-change countries in the world, eight are within the European Union incidentally, the world’s largest economy including the UK, Portugal, Ireland and France. In Europe, there is little argument that climate change is a huge concern. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that he was in no doubt that climate change was to blame for the recent flooding in the UK.
How are the US and Canada Faring in the Climate Change Performance Index?
On this side of the pond, things are not looking quite so rosy. The US recently ranked 43rd and Canada 58th out of 58 on the Climate Change Performance Index. While efforts by the Obama administration to introduce a similar cap-and-trade bill at the federal level were shot down on Capitol Hill, California has been more successful in its efforts. The state’s biggest industrial polluters have set a limit on the amount of carbon they are allowed to emit.
Looking To the Future
Clearly, we have a long way to go before we can begin to level out the playing field. While the US has reduced greenhouse emissions by 8% under the Obama administration, there is still much to be learned from European counterparts when it comes to addressing climate change and its global impact.
When we are talking about climate change, also known as global warming, we are talking about the increase in temperature of both the surface of the air and the surface of the sea combined, observed over a 30-year period. Importantly, it is measured by comparing the global temperature of the planet now, to that of the 50 years following the industrial revolution (1850-1900).
Since this time, the impact on the atmosphere, ecosystems, and the sea as a consequence of human industry has been so pronounced that many scientists insist that we’ve moved into a new epoch: the Anthropocene. In part this is due to the global rise in CO2 concentration per decade since the year 2000 and it’s rising 10 times faster than any other time during the past 800,000 years.
And while global temperatures were dropping by 0.01°C every 100 years for the last 7,000 years, since 1970 the temperature has been rising at an alarming rate of 1.7°C per century. Perhaps most concerning, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that we need to stay below a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures in order to avoid the more severe impacts of global warming.
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