Every problem has a solution. But what’s the solution to climate change? Is it up to each individual or the whole world?
by Akshita Sahu
Among the world’s largest problems, climate change is arguably the most eminent. While this is an issue that may not seem to affect us directly, the truth is that issues like biodiversity loss and climate change are seen in every part of our lives, from the water we drink to the clothes we wear.
With a problem as large as this, it’s often difficult to keep in mind that there is still time to reverse the effects of climate change. However, this issue comes down to the solution itself. The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a set of goals that provide the basis for solutions to come, but when we think of such solutions, the question comes down to where different solutions should be implemented.
We are approaching the breaking point, a point at which human activity has caused effects that will eventually be too much for the planet to handle. We face global impacts, such as the greenhouse effect and climate change, but we also face local effects, like biodiversity loss or nitrogen cycles impacting human health. With issues ranging on such a large scale, leaders have to make the decision between local and global action.
This is where we see the trilemma. Are global limits or local limits more effective in reversing climate change? Is there a neutral side?
A global limit is what we need.
What stands out thes most in this issue is the fact that the Earth has warmed 2.1o F since 1880. Those who argue that a global limit, on measures like carbon emissions, is the solution we need explain that because the problem is global, the solution must also be global. One of the most important principles with multilateral cooperation is that climate change isn’t any single nation’s problem. With agreements among multiple nations, the effects of climate change can be reversed. Guidelines set on sustainable commerce, resources, and activity for every nation can help combat climate change.
When it comes to global solutions and guidelines, there is no shortage of attempts to make a change. In 2009, a group of earth systems scientists published a paper explaining the
concept of planetary boundaries. Planetary boundaries are a set of limits placed on the planet for various measures, like global warming, biodiversity loss, and ozone depletion. These limits describe the levels with which the planet can operate safely. By using these boundaries, nations can make guidelines that can set our planet on the course for recovery.
Furthermore, it’s important to understand the different groups that will collaborate to reverse the effects of climate change. With global solutions that involve multiple nations, not only is there a clear emphasis on improving a global problem, there is consistency maintained worldwide.
Local limits will be more beneficial.
From an idealistic standpoint, a global solution may seem to be the most effective. However, those who argue that local action will help us and the environment explain that it’s important to keep in mind the specific risks that pertain to global solutions. The most obvious issue is that with multilateral agreements, the chances of a nation or group of nations backing out of the agreement is very probable. This means that this kind of deal isn’t reliable. This flaw points to the core issue that organization is easier when smaller groups are working together rather than large nations. In addition to this, the Department of Economics from the University of Warwick explains that with multiple nations working together, the costs of reducing carbon emissions would generally impact some countries more than others.
The University of Warwick also emphasizes how though there have been efforts to create multilateral agreements to combat climate change, there is a much higher chance of
success among local institutions and governments dealing with climate change. For instance, the City of Boston introduced legislation to combat 80% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by directly involving Bostonians in city reform projects As of February, the city of Boston has been successful in measures like energy efficiency in municipal buildings and citywide zero-emission vehicles deployment.
Linus Blomqvist, the director of the Conservation and Development Program at the Breakthrough Institute, explains that when global limits are placed on problems like nitrogen regulation, it “masks that nitrogen is unevenly distributed globally.” Along with this, different locations have different needs. For example, certain regulations on coral reefs and the toxins are generally dependent on that area. When it comes to biodiversity, each situation needs a unique evaluation. For instance, one report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that local biodiversity increased in 2013. As more data is collected, we understand that biodiversity is actually declining, and this stark difference in analysis from time to time shows that every circumstance needs to be considered individually. When it comes to climate change, those who argue this perspective explain that there is no one size that fits all.
We need a combination of both local and global solutions.
This neutral point of view utilizes the best parts of both arguments. While it’s entirely true that benefits for one place are situational, a global initiative can guide the actions taken locally. It’s important to understand that while the solutions implemented may be local, there is always room for international collaboration. The combination of both of these types of solutions should vary depending on the severity, urgency, and frequency of the issue.
Of the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations, several pertain to environmental protection. The United Nations explains that the actions to meet these goals will be solely dependent on the countries. With these guidelines, we see that each nation retains their ability to adapt policies and guidelines to their needs while still collectively working with other nations to solve a global problem.