COP26 and Studying Climate Change

Global News and Perspectives

“The Earth is a fine place and is worth fighting for”, wrote Ernest Hemingway.

Right now, what we are fighting for is to save the Earth from the perils of climate change. Long-term changes in temperatures and weather patterns are changing the face of the earth as we know it. The cause? Us. Humans, with excessive emissions of green house gases and burning fossil fuels.

November 2021 is significant in our fight against climate change as COP26 drew to a close. Leaders of the world got together and set goals that will reduce the rapid rate of climate change.

Table of contents:

What is COP26?

In simple terms, it is a climate conference organised by the United Nations. COP stands for Conference of the Parties and 26 because it is the 26th annual gathering. This year, UK was the president and the conference was held in Glasgow.

What kind of decision are made here, you might wonder. Let us talk about the most significant COP before this one, the COP21. We know it as the Paris Agreement. It is where this momentous decision was made. Every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to deliver on these aims.

What were the goals of COP26?

  • Reduce emissions of green house gases to net zero
  • Keep the 1.5 degree target of the Paris Agreement within reach
  • Adapt to protect vulnerable communities and natural habitats
  • Mobilise finance for loss and damage caused due to climate change

Key Outcomes
Did countries commit to deep emission cuts by 2030? Many climate change activists say, “not enough”.

Will the 1.5 degree celsius goal of the Paris Agreement be kept alive? Yes.

  • 151 countries submitted nationally determined plans to reduce emissions.
  • Countries to revisit and strengthen” their 2030 targets by the end of 2022 to align them with the Paris Agreements temperature goals
  • The Glasgow pact has asked nations to consider further actions to curb potent non-CO2 gases, such as methane, and includes language emphasising the need to phase down unabated coal” and phase-out fossil fuel subsidies.”
  • In 2009, rich nations committed to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020, a target that was not met. This is revisited as countries have agreed to build a new, larger climate finance goal to go into effect after 2025.
  • Scotland and Belgium were the first to pledge over $3 million for the “Loss and Damage” fund.
  • The rules for the global carbon market were settled – there will be no more double-counting where more than one country could claim the same emission reduction
  • India committed to net-zero emissions by 2070
  • A group of 46 countries promised to phase out domestic coal
  • Emphasis on harnessing solar energy
  • US and China, the world’s biggest CO2 emitters surprised everyone with a joint declaration to boost climate cooperation.

Was COP26 a success?

The answer is yes, but barely. The success of COP26 relies almost entirely on the pledges made for the future. But phasing down usage of coal and finalising rules for the global coal market are in themselves tremendous steps forward. Even the coal-reliant countries have committed to phasing it out in the the next 20 years. The era of coal-reliance is almost over. However, the issue of funding was met with resistance. Greenpeace said the finalised text was “meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive”. Keeping the goals of the Paris Agreement alive is a win, but, if pledges aren’t kept, we are in deep soup.

What can you do?

We know the little things we can do as individuals to help our planet: avoiding single use plastic, using public transport, recycle and choose sustainable options. But what if you want to help at a larger, policy level?

Climate change education.

Besides your typical majors in biology or environmental science, there are a number of options for you to join the battlefront against climate change. Here are some of them.

  • Landscape architecture/ Urban planning – you can contribute directly in increasing the earth’s green cover, balancing modern-day needs without negatively impacting the environment.
  • Environmental law – championing the rights of nature
  • Environmental engineering and eco-technology
  • Environmental Economics – balancing the needs of the economy with that of ecology
  • Marine Biology
  • Wildlife Management
  • Geology and soil sciences

But that is not all. You can directly major in climate change, both at the undergraduate or at the master’s level. It is an up and coming interdisciplinary field where you will learn the science and policies behind tackling climate change. You can combine the program with meteorology, sustainability, economics, technical design, humanities or basically any other field and carve a niche for yourself.

Here are some of the universities offering courses in Climate Change:

The effects of the pandemic have once again left us worried about the economy and its recovery. However, if we choose economy over ecology or sustainability, there is no recovery from there. The time to act is now. Whether it is choosing a cloth bag over a plastic one or a career in climate change, in a crusade to change the world. To quote former U.S President Barack Obama, We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”

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