The Challenge of Climate Change

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This is an outstanding Journal issued by a distinguished Science Center. It is not a traditional journal; it addresses issues out of the normal. I was asked to contribute a short article and I am happy to do so.

I have opted to write about the Challenge of Climate Change because, currently, it is the most pressing global environmental problem. Climate change is a natural problem; however, over the past few decades, a human induced accelerated change has been taking place. These human interventions essentially occur through activities such as power generation, industry, agriculture, transport and waste, all of which increase the production of greenhouse gases that have the potential to increase the average global temperature.

There are still arguments that climate change is a natural problem that depends on the movement of the Sun. It is true that we need to develop more scientific evidence; but, we certainly know enough. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report of 2007 emphasized that climate change is already upon us.

The IPCC based its emphatic conclusions on a number of facts: CO2 atmospheric concentration, the main greenhouse gas causing global warming, increased from 280 ppm (parts per million) in 1750 to 379 ppm in 2005; the average concentration for the last 365,000 years was 300 ppm. We noted this in Egypt over the past several years; eleven out of the previous twelve years (1994–2005) were the hottest on record. The number of cold days and nights, hot days and nights, as well as heat waves, increased in the past fifty years. The average sea level rise was 3.1 mm/year between 1993 and 2003, compared to an average of 1.8 mm/year during the period 1961–2003.

There is up to 97% confidence within the IPCC that the average global temperature will increase by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, though this could happen as early as the year 2035. Moreover, the IPCC had more than 50% confidence that the average global temperature would increase in the twenty-first century by 5º–6ºC, a development never before faced by human beings.

These disturbing facts were further stressed and accentuated by the United Nations Environmental Programme’s State of the Environment Report (SoE), the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report and other reports by the World Bank, the European Union (EU), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. National Science Foundation, and others.

Yet, the outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences at Copenhagen (2009), Cancun (2010) and Durban (2011) proved that governments are not serious enough about the issue. If human beings want to survive, non-stop consultations between developed and developing countries must take place now, and they should achieve tangible and effective compromises before the next Climate Change Conference.

*The original article was published in PSC Newsletter, Summer 2012 issue.

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