Climate pledges are like tackling COVID-19 without social distancing, say experts

Current global pledges to tackle climate change are the equivalent of declaring a pandemic without a plan for social distancing, researchers say. In an article, scientists criticise “climate hypocrisy.

In the Paris Agreement, nations agreed to limit global warming to below 2°C, but University of Exeter scientists say governments are engaged in “climate hypocrisy” by publicly supporting the agreement while subsidising the fossil fuel industry, destroying forests and pursuing other harmful policies, writes a statement.

Writing in the journal Global Sustainability, the scientists highlight two other crises – ozone depletion and the COVID-19 pandemic – and call for similar action on the climate crisis.

“Restoring the ozone layer and minimising the COVID-19 pandemic both required governments to enact specific legislation to address the precise causes of these problems,” said Professor Mark Baldwin, of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute (GSI).

“By contrast, Paris Agreement commitments are the equivalent of intending to restore the ozone layer without a plan for eliminating ozone-depleting substances, or intending to end the COVID-19 pandemic without a plan for social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus.”

The researchers call for a comprehensive global plan to solve the climate crisis. They make seven recommendations, including to end all government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, ban all exploration for new oil/gas/coal reserves anywhere in the world, and to enforce a policy that no public money can be spent on fossil fuel infrastructure anywhere in the world.

They also call for a halt to buying products from nations that destroy rainforests in order to produce cheaper, greater quantities of meat and agricultural products for export.

Professor Baldwin added: “To bring about real change, we must address complex issues involving politics, fake news, human behaviour, government subsidies, taxes, international trade agreements, human rights, lobbying by the fossil fuel industry, and disinformation campaigns.”

Image credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

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