Top 5 questions about climate change

1. Why is climate change happening and is it not too late to fix?

Climate change is probably the biggest challenge the world is facing, but it’s not too late to fix it.

First of all, it is important to clarify that climate change is happening because of human interference. This fact that has been confirmed by the Nobel Peace Price-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

If you don't believe us, take a look at this and see if we can convince you.

Each year we release almost 30 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, mainly as a result of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

The main sectors responsible for fossil fuel consumption and climate polluting CO2 emissions are:
  • energy generation
  • transport
  • industry
  • households
This means that we need political action to make changes happen. One of the most important steps is a global agreement once the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

We need to ask our leaders to agree on a more ambitious post-Kyoto regime, with CO2 emission reduction targets in the order of 80% by the middle of the century.

But this does not only rely on politics and leaders, there's also a lot we can do to fight climate change on our daily lives.



2. Sure, but how serious do governments really take the Kyoto Protocol and how will any new agreement help stop climate change?

First, we need to go back in history a little bit. In 1992 the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established and, to date, 189 countries have ratified it, giving it legal force at the national level. A couple of years later, in 1997, the convetion led to the creation of the Kyoto Protocol.

The famous protocol is the main mechanism by which the UNFCCC plans to reach its aim to: stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

In plain English, this means that the Kyoto Protocol tries to minimize the human impact on climate change. The protocol entered into force in 2005 as the only mandatory and legally binding global treaty for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

A few countries have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. These countries, such as the United States, demand more effective mechanisms, but fail to present an environmentally effective and economically feasible alternative.

Governments of developed countries that have ratified the protocol are referred to as Annex I countries. These countries have agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a collective average of 5% below their 1990 levels.

Developing countries, known as Non-Annex I countries, have no greenhouse gas emission reduction obligations.

But much deeper cuts in CO2 emissions are necessary in order to keep global warming below the danger threshold of 2°C.



3. If climate change is unavoidable, could we not adapt to it?

WWF’s main priority is mitigating climate change.

And we are optimistic that if we manage to achieve deep cuts in CO2 emissions to keep global warming below 2°C, we might also be able to keep the impacts of climate change within tolerable limits.

However, climate change is already happening and affecting people and nature all over the world. Extreme weather events, rainstorms and heat waves are affecting biodiversity and threatening precious ecosystems, thus putting decades of hard work and massive investments in nature conservation and sustainable development at risk.

The poor usually suffer most because they often live in heavily exposed regions, have limited ways to protect their livelihoods and face brutal challenges in the wake of natural disasters.

This is why, apart from mitigation to prevent things from getting worse, WWF also promotes adaptation and resilience.

From tropical forests to arctic glaciers and coral reefs, WWF focuses on understanding climate change impacts and developing solutions and strategies to build resistance and resilience in highly exposed ecosystems and communities.

Building resistance and resilience are management tools to help limit pollution, prevent habitat loss or invasive species, and establish protected areas.

But, again, only swift action to reduce CO2 emissions will bring about a long-term solution to the problems caused by climate change.



4. How can carbon offsets meaningfully contribute to solve climate change?

Offsetting emissions is only the second option. The best is always to avoid emissions altogether.

Offsetting through financing clean energy projects has become popular and gaining support from small and large emitting companies. A company avoids net carbon emissions through five important steps:

  1. Assess current emissions (from production, heating, lighting or travel.
  2. Avoid CO2 emissions by identifying all carbon-intensive activities which are not necessary (e.g. replace some business travel by video conferencing).
  3. Improve energy-saving measures and ensure the efficient use of energy to stop the energy waste (e.g. replace inefficient office appliances).
  4. Offset unavoidable emissions through investment in clean energy projects that are certified with the Gold Standard, initiated and supported by WWF.
  5. Review the strategy annually to avoid more emissions and become more efficient every year, and decrease the amount of CO2 emissions that need to be offset step by step. The target should be to reduce offset to zero over time.

5. What else can realistically be done by WWF, companies, communities and you?

We can all help in different ways to tackle this global problem. Here you'll find some ideas on what you can do to help.

As an organizaion, WWF works to keep global warming well below 2°C. This is the danger threshold beyond which climate change is predicted to become uncontrollable.

WWF offers Climate Solutions, an energy vision for 2050 that shows how we can meet a global demand for energy while achieving the necessary drop of about 80% in global CO2 emissions to stay below 2°C.

The Climate Solutions report identifies six key solutions to the challenge of meeting global energy demand without damaging the global climate:
  • Improving energy efficiency
  • Stopping forest loss
  • Accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies
  • Developing flexible fuels
  • Replacing high-carbon coal with low-carbon gas
  • Equipping fossil fuel plants with carbon capture and storage technology
Check out the full report (PDF - 3MB)

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