Climate change is a real and serious problem as 17-year old Brittany Trilford reminded world leaders while speaking recently at the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil. “We are here to solve the problems that we have caused as a collective, to ensure that we have a future,” Trilford said.
The problem is only getting worse as a report released last month by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows. The report contains a disturbing statistic: Global carbon emissions from fossil-fuel combustion reached a record high last year, representing a 3.2 percent increase from 2010. Coal accounted for 45 percent of the increase, oil accounted for 35 percent, and natural gas accounted for 20 percent. However, there is some good news emerging from the report. The U.S. has achieved the largest reduction in carbon emissions since 2006 of all countries or regions. Carbon emissions in the U.S. decreased by 1.7 percent last year and 7.7 percent since 2006.
Unfortunately, it is not entirely good news. The report attributes the decrease to switching from coal to natural gas for power generation, hand in hand with an exceptionally mild winter, which reduced the need for space heating. Although natural gas produces fewer carbon emissions than coal, it is still a fossil fuel. In order to keep the global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius, as climate scientists recommend in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, there needs to be a serious reduction in the use of fossil fuels.
The world is on a trajectory that results in emission levels which could lead to a global temperature rise of 3.5 degrees Celsius, according to IEA’s report, World Energy Outlook 2011. The Rio+20 Summit represented an “important opportunity for action,” as the report put it. Unfortunately, the Summit resulted in a failure. One of the top Twitter trending hashtags for the Summit was #riofail.
There are two main reasons the Summit was a failure. First, nothing legally binding came out of it. As Food & Water Watch points out, the developed countries keep stating that it was “not a pledging conference.” Second, developed countries did not offer funds to help developing countries mitigate climate change.
All is not lost. Two days before the Summit started, the environmental group 350.org launched a 24-hour Twitterstorm which urged people to tweet about ending fossil fuel subsidies with the hash tag #endfossilfuelsubsidies. Millions of people around the world took part in the Twitterstorm. Clearly, the world’s citizens want their leaders to take action on climate change, including ending fossil fuel subsidies for the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.
If you didn’t take part in the Twitterstorm, it’s not too late to make your voice heard. Sign the petition, End Polluter Welfare which targets the CEOs of ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Chevron. Let them know you want fossil fuel subsidies to end.
Photo: Flickr user, ItzaFineDay