There are areas in the world that at certain times of the year regularly experience natural weather phenomena with extraordinary destructive powers.
From June to September, the south coast of the United States prepares for the hurricane season. It is a period of tropical cyclones that form in the North Atlantic. In simple terms, they are fueled by the warm air over water that rises and meets the cold air above and produces winds of up to 150 mph. The same occurs in areas of the South Pacific, where they are called typhoons. The associated thunderstorms and heavy precipitation can cause severe flooding.
In recent years, those events have become successively stronger and more destructive. Meteorological statistics have shown that the Earth’s average surface air temperature has increased by about 1.1° Celsius since 1900, with over half of the increase occurring since the mid-1970s.
The cause of this global warming is the production of various gases resulting from industrialization, and our methods of producing the energy required to sustain our lifestyle. We are almost totally dependent on electricity. Most of the world’s electricity is generated by steam turbines whose power is derived from burning fossil fuel like coal. Some use combustion gas turbines that are driven by liquid fuels. The major consumer of liquid fuels is the transportation industry: our cars and trucks, cruise ships, and of course airplanes.
The burning of these fuels discharges hot gases, which are lighter than air and rise into the atmosphere. Chemically, coal is mostly carbon, which, when burned, reacts with oxygen in the air to produce carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas. When released into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide works like a blanket, warming the earth to above normal limits. Scientists warn that if we continue to mine and burn fossil fuels, the air temperature will eventually rise to limits that will upset the delicate balance that sustains our life on earth.
Burning liquid fuel has the same effect. The ice caps will melt even more with the result that oceans will rise and cause low-lying areas to flood permanently. The small Pacific Island states will totally disappear. Air over the oceans will become warm throughout the year, causing frequent heavy precipitation and hurricanes.
During the past few decades there have been discussions about methods to prevent a natural disaster. The best known was the 2016 conference in Paris, but to use a colloquial term, they always kicked the can down the road. This year for the first time ever, it was resolved to once again convene a truly international conference on climate change with the participation of all countries in the world, to put words into action.
COP26, the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, took place in the city of Glasgow in Scotland from October 31 to November 12, with delegations from almost 200 countries taking part. Israel had the second-largest delegation after the United States.
It began in the presence of world leaders. Presidents and prime ministers from countries large and small attended the first two days to show their commitment to preserve our planet for future generations.
Even US President Joe Biden made the journey to speak about the importance of unanimous dedication to this important task.
The conference was held under the chairmanship of British Cabinet Minister Alok Sharma. Its mission was to achieve international agreement to reduce global warming by phasing out the production and use of fossil fuels, particularly coal, to set successive carbon emission targets aiming for complete elimination by 2030, and to contribute funds to assist the poorer and developing nations in that task.
Another aim was to find ways to reduce the level of methane emission, the main constituent of natural gas that reduces the level of oxygen in the air. Other sources originate from the decomposition of organic materials, for instance landfill sites. Advocates for “The New Green Deal” even want to completely stop the production of beef, because cows discharge methane gas! A hundred countries, including the US, have pledged to cut 30% of methane emissions by 2030.
The main resolve of the conference was to ensure that global warming does not exceed 1.5° Celsius, because anything higher endangers the planet. New analysis suggests that without immediate action, the world is heading for 2.4C of warming by mid-century. All participating countries agreed with that aim, however how that was to be achieved against the economic interests of the various states was the cause of hard and intensive discussions during the two weeks of the conference.
Australia is the second-largest exporter of coal, mainly to China, and as in just a few months there will be an election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will have to walk a ‘tight rope’ between trying to comply with his county’s COP26 participation and the possibility of economically ruining the large coal mining area of New South Wales, which produces exports worth $14 billion annually. Australia let it be known that there is little prospect of the coal industry closing before 2060.
Russia, the third-largest coal exporter, will also not commit until possibly 2060, and China is still constructing new coal mines, effectively paying lip service to COP26. Neither China nor India nor Australia will commit to phase out fossil fuel.
If global warming were to reach 2 degrees Celsius, low-lying Island countries would totally disappear, particularly in the South Pacific, among them the Marshall Islands, Palau and others. Also the Maldives and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and even Bangladesh would succumb to the climate catastrophe, quite apart from low-lying coastal regions of the world’s developed countries.
Several of the non-industrial small countries that have already suffered damage resulting from global warming are requesting damage funding, or payment for effective anti-flood adaptation from the developed world.
The weaker nations have kept their cards close to their chest until the very last day, like Papua New Guinea, when they expressed concern about deforestation, and suggested that they should have compensation for not engaging in this practice.
One hundred countries have committed to halt deforestation by 2030. Who knows how much damage they can cause in the next eight years?
It was hoped that the annual $100 billion fund agreed upon at the Paris conference in 2016 for the industrialized nations to help poorer countries comply with the aims set by the conference agreement will now finally be implemented. One of the prominent participants and movers was John Kerry, Biden’s climate change envoy.
The conference ended when the final text of the COP26 Climate Change agreement was accepted by all, but only after intervention by China and India to change the wording about coal production from “phasing out” to “phasing down.”
The smaller low-lying and island nations felt that the agreement was thrust upon them with nothing to show for it, while China, India, Australia and the other large polluters got what they wanted.
COP26 set very ambitious targets, though short of the expectations from the Paris conference. It now remains to be seen if the many words that were spoken will translate into action.
Does little Israel not have more important priorities than global warming? Would Israel’s changeover to electric vehicles make any measurable difference to global warming, while the largest countries of the world continue to burn coal? Why did Jerusalem have to send a 140-strong delegation as well as representatives from Israeli industries to Glasgow?
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attended the initial meetings, taking every photo opportunity while bumping elbows with world leaders and personalities such as Bill Gates. Yet neither President Xi Jinping of China, whose country is 437 times larger than Israel, nor Russian President Vladimir Putin – both heads of the world’s largest polluters – felt it important enough to attend. That does not augur well for the international battle against global warming. ■
The writer, at almost 98, holds the Guinness Record as the world’s oldest active journalist and oldest working radio talk show host. He presents Walter’s World on Israel National Radio (Arutz 7) and The Walter Bingham File on Israel Newstalk Radio.