The climate crisis is the greatest challenge that humanity is currently facing.
The massive burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil turns the earth into a greenhouse. The forecast of the leading climate experts: If the industrialized and emerging countries do not drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the average temperature on earth could rise by a further four degrees by the end of the century.
2016 was the warmest year since systematic weather records began in 1881. It was around 1.1 ° C warmer than in pre-industrial times. The heat records have been increasing since the late 1990s: the hottest summers in various regions, the warmest winters, the slightest extent of the summer polar ice – this is partly due to the unchecked emissions of industrial greenhouse gases.
The annual emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2 in the fastest growing industrial nations China and India alone destroy all savings in other industrialized countries. China has now even overtaken the USA. In terms of per capita emissions, however, the USA is still ahead of China. In 2017, there was almost 15 tons of CO2 for every US citizen, and just under seven tons for every inhabitant of China. The per capita emissions in Germany were 8.7 tons.
CLIMATE CHANGE IN DISCUSSION
In the 1990s, scientists were still debating the causes of rapid warming controversially. Climate fluctuations through natural processes were taken into account. Such a natural process would be volcanism, for example. Extreme volcanic eruptions can change the climate. In the past 150 years, however, volcanism was no more pronounced than in the centuries before. Another example is solar activity. In fact, there are regular solar cycles with stronger and lesser radiation intensity. But satellite measurements show that the fluctuations between the minimum and maximum of radiation in the past decades were far too small to trigger the current climate change.
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been measured regularly since the 1950s. Compared with other research data, it shows that the concentration is as high today as it was 800,000 years ago. There have always been natural fluctuations in the earth’s climate, but they developed over very long periods of time. Today’s development is proceeding rapidly. It can also be proven that the measured CO2 is of fossil origin, i.e. comes from the combustion of coal and oil. Only about half of the carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere, the other half has been absorbed by the oceans and the earth’s biosphere.
Today there are hardly any climate researchers who assume that it will develop naturally. The data situation suggests a so-called anthropogenic, man-made climate change. This is also confirmed by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – an independent scientific body in which hundreds of scientists from all over the world participate. His reports appear regularly; the most recent special report was published in October 2018. It summarizes the current knowledge on the scientific basis, risks and consequences as well as mitigation possibilities of climate change.
CLIMATE SKEPTICS AND THE COAL AND OIL INDUSTRY
Nevertheless, there are still a handful of so-called climate skeptics who reject the thesis of a man-made climate crisis. You may really not be convinced of the validity of the arguments. Or they are unwilling to question their lifestyle even if it ruins the planet. Often, however, lobbyists from industry and business stand behind the skeptics, especially the oil and coal industries. This is not surprising, as these two branches of industry and their lucrative business are being scrutinized.
The role of the oil giant ExxonMobil (Esso) in this game has long been documented. In the US, organized lobbyists did a great job in the 1990s. The fact that the United States did not sign the Kyoto Protocol is due not least to climate skeptics paid by Exxon.
One of them is Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), widely quoted in conservative US media. In February 2015, the New York Times reported on documents showing that Soon had received and hidden those revenue streams from corporations, lobby groups, and oil companies like Exxon over a period of more than a decade.
US climate skeptics paid by oil companies were also the ones who founded the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF) in 1996 – specifically for the purpose of preventing an effective European climate protection policy. A study by Greenpeace International from 2011 shows the extent to which corporations are still trying to prevent climate protection laws.
EXITING FOSSIL ENERGY
With the Paris Climate Agreement, which more than 170 countries signed in April 2016, the world community has now committed itself to climate protection. The international resolution aims to ensure that the contracting states keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era. Their goal: to limit the global temperature rise to a level of “well below two degrees Celsius” or “to make efforts not to exceed a rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius”. In the second half of this century, greenhouse gas emissions should drop to zero. In fact, this means a complete phase-out of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas by 2050.
The Greenpeace report “Energy [R] evolution” from 2015 proves that a global energy transition is actually possible by 2050. A worldwide switch to 100 percent renewable energies would not only reduce CO2 emissions and the two-degree target It is also economically efficient: all investments required for the energy transition can be covered by the fuel costs saved. This would create more than 20 million jobs worldwide by 2030. So it is time to finally counteract the climate crisis.