The challenges and risks of being slow to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of climate change, one of the most urgent issues of our time. Climate change is causing serious consequences for the planet and humanity, including weather changes, temperature rise, sea-level rise, floods, droughts, wildfires, loss of biodiversity, and increased risk of conflicts and migration. To address this issue, countries worldwide have participated in the Paris Agreement, an international agreement aimed at limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and striving to reduce it to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial period. However, the action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has not yet reached the desired and necessary level. Many countries have not fully and timely implemented their commitments and goals. Many industries and sectors have not transitioned to clean and renewable energy. Many individuals and communities still lack awareness and appropriate actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their daily lives. Delaying action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will face significant challenges and risks that we need to recognize and address.

Greenhouse gas emissions include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from all sources, including agriculture and land-use changes. They are measured in carbon dioxide equivalents over a 100-year period.

Technical and Economic Challenges

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires significant changes in technology and economics. We need to transition to clean and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal. We need to improve energy efficiency and save energy in production and consumption activities. We need to change transportation, construction, agriculture, industry, and other sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to use carbon capture and storage technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. All these changes require substantial investment, research, development, and deployment. If we delay action, we will face challenges in technology and economics, such as:

  • Lack of supply and demand for clean and renewable energy sources, increasing their costs and reducing their efficiency.
  • Lack of infrastructure and equipment to support the transition to clean and renewable energy, such as smart grids, charging stations, storage tanks, and energy-saving devices.
  • Lack of financial resources and policy support for projects and activities related to greenhouse gas emissions reduction, such as loans, subsidies, taxes, and market mechanisms.
  • Lack of workforce and research capabilities to develop and deploy new and innovative technologies and solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as scientists, engineers, managers, and trainers.
  • Lack of collaboration and learning from other countries and regions in implementing solutions and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as contracts, agreements, and networks.

Environmental and Social Risks

Drought in Hilapgwa Valley, Zambia

Drought in Hilapgwa Valley, Zambia (Source: Alamy Stock Photo)

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is also an urgent task to protect the environment and society. If we do not act quickly and decisively, we will face environmental and social risks, such as:

  • Global temperature rise and weather changes affecting agricultural productivity, food security, human health, and biodiversity.
  • Sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion causing flooding and land loss in coastal areas, especially small islands and poor countries.
  • Increased intensity and frequency of disasters, such as floods, droughts, wildfires, storms, and earthquakes, causing damage to property, infrastructure, and people's lives.
  • Increased risk of conflicts and migration due to water, food, land, and other resource shortages, escalating tensions and conflicts between countries, territories, and communities.
  • Increased difficulty and cost of adapting to and coping with the consequences of climate change, especially for poor and vulnerable countries and communities.

Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Before the challenges and risks of delaying action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need to take decisive and timely actions to achieve the net-zero goal. Here are some actions that can be applied at the national, organizational, and individual levels:

  • At the national level, countries need to fully and seriously implement their commitments and goals in the Paris Agreement. They need to enhance their ambition and action by announcing and implementing strong and verifiable Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Countries also need to support and cooperate with each other in sharing experiences, knowledge, technology, and finance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • At the organizational level, non-governmental organizations, businesses, schools, and other organizations also need to play a crucial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Organizations need to identify and implement goals and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their activities. Organizations also need to participate in initiatives and action networks on climate change, such as Race to Zero, Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, and RE100.
  • At the individual level, each person also needs to take responsibility and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in daily life. Everyone needs to raise awareness and knowledge about climate change and ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone also needs to change consumption and production behavior by using clean and renewable energy, saving energy, reducing waste, recycling, and using environmentally friendly transportation.

It is hoped that this article will help you understand more about the challenges and risks of delaying action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and how to take action to achieve the net-zero goal. If you want more information about net zero, you can refer to the following references: