• Andrew Bunag

Dirty Air, Hot Planet

Climate change comes in many forms, but its biggest impact comes from air pollution. Air pollution raises the temperature of the Earth by a substantial amount. According to NASA, since 1880, the temperature of the Earth has increased by about 1.4 °F and it continues to increase at a rate of 32.36 °F each decade. The atmosphere’s composition is increasingly made up of toxic greenhouse gases as the Earth continues to grow hotter.

So is anything being done to manage these threats? Well, yes and no. Climate policies on the local scale are seeing significant reform, but the international community has not adopted these measures yet. Air pollution, being the deadly threat that it already is, is being handled very poorly due to the lack of a coordinated global effort, evident of the current unsafe levels of pollution across the world. If humans cannot come together as a collaborative and ward off climate change, then mankind will have to brace for an attack on the environment.

People walk on the Rajpath on a smoggy day in New Delhi, India, November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

Gas Giants

India and China sit at the top when it comes to who produces the most carbon dioxide emissions. Of the two, only China has taken a significant stance against pollution. China has lowered levels of particulates by 32 percent. How did they do it? The country released a national air quality plan, which required all urban areas to reduce concentrations of fine particulate matter pollution by at least 10 percent, more in some cities, such as Beijing. Meanwhile, in India the levels of fine particulate matter got worse by 13% between 2010 and 2015, while China’s fell by 17%. China’s noble efforts in reducing levels of pollution were successful. However, pollution was only reduced on a local scale, not a global one. Ultimately, China’s valiant effort was evidently thwarted by India’s lack of effort. If countries, especially those that emit large amounts of emissions such as India, do not begin to take a stance, then climate change will continue to metastasize.

Efforts have been made to globally combat air pollution, such as the 2015 Paris Climate Accords. 200 representatives from different countries all over the world agreed that something had to be done. While the PCA was supposed to symbolize the start of countries starting to reduce their carbon emissions, these plans fell short, as seen in a report made by the United Nations 3 years later. According to Rachel Licker, “we are nowhere near on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.” It was noted that global warming levels were closer to approaching the 3 degrees Celsius mark rather than the agreed target from the Paris Agreement of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which was previously 3 degrees Celsius. She also mentioned that we would have to reach the zero net emissions goals far sooner than expected. It has become evident that this plan is clearly crumbling.

International leaders stand together at the gathering of COP21 in 2015. Flickr

This lack of collaboration can be explained in the fact that governments and organizations across the globe that should be spearheading the fight against climate change cannot seem to get around the politics surrounding climate change. The topic at hand is already a very multifaceted issue. Climate change is associated with an abundance of things, from unexpected volcanic eruptions to human made greenhouse gases. Another example of the complexity surrounding climate change solutions is with each country’s jurisdiction and accountability. Currently, countries are made accountable for their levels of greenhouse gases under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, as seen from the Paris Agreement, the UN tends to take an incredibly long time to actually get anything done. Another issue with this fact is that countries cannot punish or reward others that are not in their jurisdiction for their efforts against climate change. This lack of enforcement is mainly evident in countries, such as India, where nothing has seemed to progress. Due to these issues, climate change is not being handled as effectively and efficiently as it could potentially be.

There are already an abundance of solutions and viable solutions in regards to lowering levels of pollution. Take a look at renewable resources, such as electricity or nuclear power, which can easily substitute fossil fuels as a power source. Also, the link between jurisdiction and accountability must be strengthened. Nationally and internationally, countries need to be punished and rewarded for their efforts or lack of efforts in the fight against climate change. Until there are penalties for pollutants like greenhouse gas emissions, countries will continue to abuse the use of fossil fuels.

This issue poses the ultimate collective action problem, it requires lots of governmental action, such as treaties, taxes, and regulations. Although it might take a lot of time, money, and effort, it will be worth it in the end as humanity will come out on top in its fight against climate change.

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