Opinion

Climate change challenges all of us

The Irish News view: There might be plenty of hot air at Cop28 but there is an urgent need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, cut emissions and tackle rising temperatures

The UN World Meteorological Organisation says the earth's average temperature this year is up 1.4C from pre-industrial times, meaning it is all but certain to be the hottest on record
The UN World Meteorological Organisation says the earth's average temperature this year is up 1.4C from pre-industrial times, meaning it is all but certain to be the hottest on record The UN World Meteorological Organisation says the earth's average temperature this year is up 1.4C from pre-industrial times, meaning it is all but certain to be the hottest on record

This week's cold snap means that most of us will have been more focused on keeping our homes warm than addressing the challenge of global warming. The two are, of course, interlinked: the burning of the fossil fuels the majority rely upon to heat their houses and places of work is connected to the climate change that has seen temperatures steadily rise.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation, a UN agency, the average temperature this year is up 1.4C from pre-industrial times, meaning it is all but certain to be the hottest on record.

It suggests that the temperature rise could exceed 1.5C next year, which would breach the limit agreed in the Paris climate accord of 2015.

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Scientists link the earth's rising temperature to the increasing prevalence of wildfires, floods, glacier melts and heatwaves.

There may be some in Ireland who think that these phenomena are restricted to far-flung countries and little to do with us; yet who could deny that our own summers seem to be getting hotter and our rainfall more intense, more often?

Poor drainage and engineering may have contributed to the flooding that ruined areas of Newry, Portadown and Downpatrick at the end of October, but ferocious rainfall made the water rise in the first place.

Against this bleak backdrop, Cop28 is taking place in Dubai. The summit is the biggest gathering of world leaders anywhere this year, as they seek to thrash out further ways to combat rising global temperatures and bind each other to climate change targets.

Pope Francis was due to attend Cop28 but has had to pull out due to illness. The summit is the biggest gathering of world leaders this year. PICTURE: AP PHOTO/ALESSANDRA TARANTINO
Pope Francis was due to attend Cop28 but has had to pull out due to illness. The summit is the biggest gathering of world leaders this year. PICTURE: AP PHOTO/ALESSANDRA TARANTINO Pope Francis was due to attend Cop28 but has had to pull out due to illness. The summit is the biggest gathering of world leaders this year. PICTURE: AP PHOTO/ALESSANDRA TARANTINO

It is correct to query what exactly previous Cop conferences have achieved, not least because temperatures continue to rise. Environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg describes Cop as "blah, blah, blah", with governments paying lip service to grandiose pledges they do little to implement.

While there may be plenty of hot air around Cop, it does at least provide a focus for climate action at government and grassroots levels that otherwise may not exist.

Students across Northern Ireland came together for the Cop28 Climate Negotiation Simulation at Belfast City Hall this week. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA
Students across Northern Ireland came together for the Cop28 Climate Negotiation Simulation at Belfast City Hall this week. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA Students across Northern Ireland came together for the Cop28 Climate Negotiation Simulation at Belfast City Hall this week. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA

We don't need to look far to see how deeply divided our world is. But as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who will address Cop28 today, says, "the urgent need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and bring down our emissions is one challenge that unites us all".

We can all play a role in meeting that challenge – not merely for our own good, but for our children and those living in precarious environments.

'The World Needs You' was the message from the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit at Cop28 in Dubai on Friday. PICTURE: CHRIS JACKSON/PA
'The World Needs You' was the message from the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit at Cop28 in Dubai on Friday. PICTURE: CHRIS JACKSON/PA 'The World Needs You' was the message from the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit at Cop28 in Dubai on Friday. PICTURE: CHRIS JACKSON/PA