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Climate change is a global threat demanding national solutions
As COP26 gets closer, politicians, scientists and environmentalists prepare to work together to combat the biggest crisis this decade will be facing, climate change. However, climate politics and national politics are very different. True change will not happen after agreements have been made by top leaders at COP26, but when these promises are turned into national decisions, where voters consent and agree to change. “Governments will have to step down from the clouds. More than that, they will have to ensure that measures to slow the rise in temperatures do not come to be seen as just another elitist project.”
COP26 will be crucial to set targets for eliminating fossil fuels, but national governments will have to go beyond those targets to set strategies and mobilize resources to reach them. As decarbonization will need to happen everywhere, such as removing fossil fuels in heating systems, replacing vehicles, and insulating homes and businesses, governments will have to fianncially support these changes.
Then and now: The burning issue of wildfires
Wildfires have hit several places in the world, most recently in Turkey. More than 100 blazes erupted in Turkey in the last five days prompting both evacuation of residential and hotel areas. However, wildfires are not only contained to Turkey, but have affected other countries, including Greece, Italy, France and the United States.
In recent years, wildfires have been dominating headlines around the world and scientists have expressed their concerns as fires are becoming more frequent, more intense and more widespread, especially in the US and Australia. Fires are not new as they have long been part of the natural cycle in many habitats that help some species thrive; however, the problem is that they are becoming more frequent and too intense for even firefighters to stop and control them.
Scientists have stated that measures need to be developed to support local communities to become more resilient to increased wildfires risks. These include land management and educational programs to reduce the risks of fires being started in the first place. According to the IPCC, “warmer summer temperatures are expected to extend the annual window of high fire ignition risk by 10 - 30 %.” The vast majority of fires are usually not naturally started, but are believed to be started either accidentally or intentionally by people. Resources need to be put in place by national governments not only to fight fires, but also to prevent them in the first place.
Curbing climate change is auto mechanics, not rocket science
If the United States wants to be on track to reduce its emissions, President Biden will have to implement strict standards that are necessary to combat climate change, including reinstating Obama-era standards that were rolled back by Trump.
Biden has the responsibility to restore policies that have been trashed by Trump during his presidency, such as tailpipe emissions standards through a car fleet that is 100% electric by 2030. Obama reached a deal to make 5% annual improvements in gas mileage and emissions with automakers by improving engines, transmissions and aerodynamics, to make vehicles pollute less. Once Trump took office, he freezed mileage and emissions at 2020 levels for the next six years, hindering any emission reductions from the auto industry.
Unfortunately, Biden will have to set strong climate policies as the US is currently not on track to reach net zero by 2050. “We won’t fend off climate catastrophe with anything less than bold steps. We have no choice but to phase out internal combustion engines in new vehicles, and the pollution they emit, by 2030.” What is needed today is for automakers to boost gas mileage by 7% a year, two points more than the companies agreed to a decade ago, to ensure that tens of millions of gas-powered vehicles built between now and 2030 won’t hinder protecting climate.