In December 2015, about 150 world leaders and delegations from196 countries met in Paris to set international targets to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions with the purpose of limiting the global temperature rise to below 2oC this century. The aim of Paris conference was for the first time to agree that, from 2020, both developed and developing countries will commit to tackling greenhouse gas emissions.
Global warming is a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth's atmosphere, generally attributed to greenhouse effect caused by the increased levels of heat trapping gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and other pollutants.
The issue of climate change was first considered on the international level at the UN conference on the human environment and Sustainable Development held in Stockholm in 1972. It was declared "A point has been reached in history when we must shape our actions throughout the world with a more prudent care for their environmental consequences” (1). This conference called for international cooperation among governments and scientific institutions to address the human impact on the environment.
WHY THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING?
The Earth’s climate has changed throughout the history due to many different natural factors such as small variations in the Earth’s orbital and the changes in the sun’s energy output (2). Carbon dioxide concentration in the air have reached highest levels in 650, 000 years and continue to increase (3). The fact that carbon dioxide levels in the air have increased about 40% by 1750 (4) suggests that, this change must have been caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists are now in agreement that climate-warming trends over the past century are most likely due to human activities (5).
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF GLOBAL WARMING?
The melting of the glaciers have already raised the sea levels about 20 cm since the end of 1800’s. Sea levels are projected to rise another 30 cm to 120 cm by 2100 as a result of melting land ice and the expansion of seawater as it warms (6). Some of the documented effects of global climate change are; receding glaciers, ice on rivers and lakes breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges shifting and trees are flowering sooner (3).
The scientific models predict that as we continue to use more fossil fuels, average surface temperatures could rise between 2°C and 6°C by the end of the 21st century (7).The Global warming will alter the rainfall patterns, causing floods and droughts in different regions. Climate change might cause increased forest fire activity (8). Many animals and plants would be at risk of extinction, which would affect the biodiversity of various ecosystems. It will change the frequency and severity of storms and hurricanes (9). It alters the ranges of some infectious diseases such as malaria and affects the food security. Residents of poorer countries who have limited resources to deal with the change and habitants of low-lying coastal areas would be affected most (10).
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF PARIS CLIMATE CONFERENCE?
The US and China, the world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have made a joint commitment to reduce their emissions. U.S. President Obama said” We recognize our role creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it."
More than 80 countries committed in their climate plans to expand their use of solar and wind power as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These countries are now looking for financing and technological assistance to make the switch to cleaner energy sources (11).
TURKEY and UK's STAND on CLIMATE CHANGE
It is scientifically proven that the countries situated at the Mediterranean basin will be seriously affected by climate change. Turkey has already started to face the effects of global warming like weakening water resources, desertification and ecologic degradation. In addition to the reduction in rain fall, an increase in desertification is being observed in Turkey (12). Turkey, being the 17th largest economy in the world and 6th largest in Europe, is experiencing a steep increase in its demand for energy. Turkey is projecting to generate 30% of it's electricity production from renewable sources by 2023 (13).
Some countries are very fortunate in terms of renewable energy sources. For example, built as it is on a volcano, Iceland has utilized the earth’s natural heat energy to supply 85% of the country’s housing with heat. Combining geothermal and hydropower energy resources, the country's electricity is produced from 100% renewable energy (14).
In 2003, a UN monitoring panel reported that the UK was the world's sixth most successful country in reducing man-made climate-changing carbon gas emissions and was on course to meet international targets, having reduced emissions by 12.8 per cent since 1990(15).
In the United Kingdom, the Climate Change Act 2008, committed the UK to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. By 2014, UK emissions had fallen by 36 percent since 1990 (16).
United Kingdom's commitment on investing in renewable resources is remarkable. Electricity generation in the UK from renewable sources has increased by 21 per cent between 2013 and 2014, to reach 64.7 TWh. Offshore wind generation was 17 per cent higher than in 2013, with capacity up 22 per cent. Solar photovoltaic generation more than doubled in 2014 to 4.1 TWh due to an increase in capacity, particularly from the Renewable Obligation scheme (17).
United Kingdom and Turkey could cooperate in renewable energy technology development to reach their renewable energy targets. This cooperation will not only strengthen the economic ties between two countries, but also set an example to other countries to work together to tackle the global climate change challenge.
1- The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
2-What do we really know about the Sun-climate connection? Advances in Space Research, Volume 20, Issues 4–5, 1997, Pages 913-921
3-Global climate change. http://climate.nasa.gov
4-Met office http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/in-depth/climate-infographic
5-Scientific consensus: Earth's climate is warming http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
6-Oceans and Sea Level Rise.Consequences of Climate Change on the Oceans
7-The Haggling Begins: Highlights of the Paris Climate Conference. http://www.industryweek.com/global-economy/haggling-begins-highlights-paris-climate-conference.
8-M.D Flannigana et al, 2000. Climate change and forest fires, Science of The Total Environment. Volume 262, Issue 3, 15 November 2000, Pages 221–229
9-Anthes, R.A., Corell, R.W., Holland, G., Hurrell, J.W., MacCracken, M.C., & Trenberth, K. (2010, February 12). Hurricanes and Global Warming—Potential Linkages and Consequences. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 87, 623–628.
10-McGranahan, G., D. Balk and B. Anderson. (2007). The rising tide: assessing the risks of climate change and human settlements in low elevation coastal zones. Environment & Urbanization, 19 (1), 17-37.
11-Paris climate deal offers flame of hope, says UN official. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/17/paris-climate-deal-flame-of-hope-diplomacy-christiana-figueres
12-National Renewable Energy Action Plan for Turkey, 2014 .Ministry of Energy and Natural resources. http://www.eie.gov.tr/duyurular_haberler/document/National_Renewable_Energy_Action_For_Turkey.pdf
13-United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. UNFCCC and Turkey’s Position. http://www.mfa.gov.tr/united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change-_unfccc_-and-the-kyoto-protocol.en.mfa
14 The Global Independent Icelandic Energy Portal. http://askjaenergy.org/iceland-introduction/iceland-energy-sector.
15-Climate Change. The Uk Programme 2006. https://www.gov.uk/ government/uploads/ system/ uploads/attachment_data/file/272269/6764.pdf
16-In the United Kingdom, the Climate Change Act 2008-http://www.legislation.gov.uk/u kpga/2008/27/contents
17-Climate change, Sarah Tudor, Lords Library notes LLN-2015-0039, http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/LLN-2015-0039