2018 was not a good year for carbon emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere. Global emissions were up nearly 3% from the previous year. Leading the pack was China, with the U.S. in second place.
As a matter of fact, emissions from all countries that signed the Paris agreement in 2015 had increased emissions last year (see figure). To put it simply, repeated similar performance will not keep Earth’s temperature from rising above the critical 2 degrees C mark.
In the words of United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, “the effects of global warming will only intensify in the absence of aggressive international action.”
Higher emissions are linked to that increased warming, with consequences ranging from rising sea levels to more severe heat waves, floods and drought.
It is clear that we need to act now and quickly, with unlimited perseverance.
The global community did this once in the past, and this is the time for a repeat performance. In 1974, Mario J. Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland demonstrated that the upper atmosphere was a sink for chlorofluromethanes, more commonly known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), by destroying ozone, and thus creating the so-called “ozone hole.”
These were the compounds used in refrigeration at the time. Finally, in 1985 the ozone hole was observed above Antarctica by British scientists for the first time. The Montreal Protocol in the late 1980’s subsequently banned the production and use of these compounds, and the world complied. Ozone in the upper atmosphere protects living things on the Earth’s surface from harmful UV radiation. Although the ozone hole still exists today, its size has been contained and the danger to our planet reduced.
Molina and Rowland, along with Paul J. Crutzen, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly for their work on the formation and decomposition of ozone.
It is the type of action that is required to save Earth from catastrophic climate change. Both problems seriously held our planet at hostage. We can minimize the risk if we act now.
Dr. Bob Talbot is a Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Director of the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science (ICAS) at the University of Houston. Dr. Talbot is also an adjunct Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry in the School of Atmospheric Science at Nanjing University, Nanjing, China. He also serves there as Vice Chair for the Institute for Climate and Global Change Research at Nanjing University. Dr. Talbot has been part of the NASA Global Tropospheric Chemistry program since 1983, serving on the science team for 20 major airborne expeditions supported by this program. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Atmosphere.
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