COP26: The Threat of Rising Ocean Levels
By: Cam Padalino
The 26th Conference of the UNFCCC (The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) was held in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31st to November 13th 2021. The event was organized by the United Kingdom and Italy, officially run by the UK’s cabinet minister Alok Sharma. Many issues were discussed regarding the current climate and humanity’s likely future if things don’t change soon; this included the steadily rising global temperatures and the ever growing threat of rising ocean levels. The increase in average Earth temperatures are a direct result of global warming due to the increase in greenhouse gasses and the thinning ozone layer in Earth's stratosphere that protects the surface from intense radiation and fatal temperatures (National Geographic).
There are a variety of consequences that arise from increasing ocean levels, many of which put the human population in danger. More than 13 million people living along coastlines in the U.S. are at risk of losing their homes or even their lives (Lavelle). All other countries with oceans on a coast will also be victims of rising sea levels, some beyond any possible repair. Higher sea levels will cause bigger storm surges and higher high tides. People whose land isn’t lost, but sits on these possible new coasts will face a dramatic increase in the number of injuries they face. Inland, what is not gone will most likely be subjected to destructive erosion, wetland flooding, agricultural soil contamination, and loss of habitat for many animals (Neumann, Yohe, Nicholls, and Manion).
Due to the constantly rising list of problems, new promises, agreements, and systems were enacted in order to combat them. Moreover, the current goal for all countries involved is to limit warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. Not only that, but the USA has promised to develop a Sustainable Ocean Plan to manage their surrounding oceans under national jurisdiction according to John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, on the US department of state’s official website. Many countries are being tasked with finding ways to reduce harmful emissions to net zero by 2050. The UNFCCC COP26 Presidency Outcomes all have the same goal of limiting pollution and harmful emissions to reduce global warming and slow down, if not almost completely stop, the melting of icebergs and the rise of global water levels. 190 countries are phasing down their use of coal for an energy source, significantly decreasing the creation of coal plants. By burning coal, toxic gas is emitted and is the biggest contributor to climate change, so getting rid of it is of the utmost importance in 2022. Greenhouse gasses can be combated by trees that pull the toxic substances from the air and repurpose them into breathable air, albeit slowly. They also provide habitats for animals who also benefit their native environments through pollination and continuing the circle of life.137 countries have promised to find a way to stop deforestation processes and start reversing it by 2030. Methane is another harmful greenhouse gas that pollutes the air. A main contributor to methane production is cow farts, however, oil and gas, waste, and the agricultural industries all increase methane in the atmosphere. Thanks to over 100 countries contributing their signatures to the Global Methane Pledge, 30% of all methane emissions might be reduced by 2030. However, only 46% of all the different types of methane emissions are covered under this pledge.
Since 2009, wealthy nations have put billions of dollars towards combating the climate crisis. Affordability is largely taken into account when considering sustainable energy production and use, so this financial support is vital in making it more easily attainable to less fortunate nations. Currently, the world will meet its goal to channel US$100 billion a year to less wealthy nations in order to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate further rises in temperature by 2023 despite the original plan aiming for 2020. It is believed that humans can make the switch to a better system and save the lives of millions with this plan. These are just some of the many ways the increasing ocean level is being solved. The multitude of steps taken internationally are keeping the Earth from burning up and flooding the little under 30% of land that is still above water.
According to UNFCCC COP26, renewable energy sources are keeping our planet safe. Nearly all of the countries in attendance agreed in one way or another to help come up with or implement ways to improve the well being of our planet. According to the Climate Pact, signed during UNFCCC COP26, the oceans won’t start to slow their rising unless the new negotiations go into full effect. Humanity will have to take hundreds to thousands of years to almost completely reverse the damage that’s already been done, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible (Boyle). With the help of these new agreements, such as the Climate Pact and Global Methane Pledge, we can work towards a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable tomorrow.
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