The Effects of Climate Change Are Catastrophic, and We Need Real Action From World Leaders


Lukas Werner

The implementation of cleaner energy sources into our everyday lives and the complete halt of the use of fossil fuel are imperative to preventing the impending climate disaster, scientists say.

Lillian Paugh, Staff Reporter

Our time to act against the catastrophic effects of climate change is running out.

Saving our planet has been shelved by world leaders who have let their desire for profit take priority over utilizing their resources to aid in curbing climate change, and thus, securing the future of the entire world.

With increasing global temperatures, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and, according to the Pew Research Center, an upsurge in weather-related disasters in the time since the first Earth Summit held in 1992, it is evident that world leaders continue to ignore the extremely imminent threat of the climate crisis.

World leaders have failed time and time again to follow through with their pledges to make a significant dent in the environmental damage already done. Still, they refuse to take the right initiatives to secure a healthy habitat for future generations that are at tremendous risk, as the time frame to make effective changes continues to shrink.

The main reason for their procrastination towards saving the planet is one that is not unfamiliar or shocking: money. The ruling class’ incessant cravings for profit have, and continue to be, both a cause for contention within global and domestic climate talks; a roadblock in the fight against climate change.

If the elite are unwilling, who will pay? 

How much will be paid?

Where will the money go?

When will the money be spent?

These are all questions that many world leaders refuse to address when the topic of battling climate change is brought up. 

“Time is money” truly fits the case of climate action, as the longer our world leaders wait to set specific frameworks for battling climate change, it will only cost us more financially to cover the costs of its effects going forward. 

Because of the massive industry that the burning of fossil fuels has created, and the unequivocally firm grip they have on the economy, many world leaders are reluctant to phase out or completely cut fossil fuels as a source of energy — fearing that doing so will be devastating for the global economy.

The truth is that the world’s economy will suffer more from a lack of initiative than an abundance of action.

It is estimated that if the Earth is to continue warming at the current rate, the result will be trillions upon trillions of dollars in global costs, on top of those already racked up from previous disasters all around the world related to climate change. These numbers will only become greater as global temperatures continue to rise.

In the time before the 2015 Paris Agreement, our planet was estimated to warm by 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era levels by the end of the 21st century, which held catastrophic implications for the future of life on Earth. As a result of the efforts of world nations, that number has since been knocked down to 2.9 degrees Celsius due to current policies in place. 

Still, this exceeds the goal of not surpassing average planetary warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius which was the focal point of the Paris Accord and a major point of discussion at this year’s COP26, the United Nation’s 26th Conference of the Parties, in which plans to address and combat climate change were negotiated.

An increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels has been cautioned as the cap for Earth’s warming. Any higher would only further intensify the effects we are seeing today, including effects that are experienced far worse in developing countries. And seeing as the planet has already warmed, on average, 1.1 degrees celsius, we need to see real action now.

Among those that attended COP26, President Joe Biden has spent the past few months pushing an infrastructure bill through Congress that will, as a significant portion of his political agenda, include his own $555 billion climate change initiative. This plan aims to refocus the U.S.’s energy sources toward cleaner solutions and will take action in penalizing companies that don’t cooperate and reward those that do.

Although this was a great step to take for the U.S., as the second-highest producer of carbon dioxide pollution in 2020, the agenda faced, and continues to face massive criticism. This criticism is based largely on a concern that Biden’s bill, as it hopes to phase out the use of fossil fuels in the U.S., will inadvertently threaten state economies that remain heavily reliant on the use of coal. 

While these economic concerns are not uncommon throughout the rest of the world, it should not, and cannot, overpower our need to stop the impending climate disaster.

Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia and chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources — as well as an adversary to Biden’s agenda — has ultimately caused the bill’s inability to get through Congress. Revisions to the bill began in late October from Biden’s administration in an attempt to win Manchin’s approval, but with the infrastructure bill finally being signed on Monday, Biden’s ambitious climate initiatives first worded in the original proposal have been left out.

Initially as chairman, Manchin intended on crafting the particulars of the climate initiative. While he did plan to get rid of the use of coal as an energy source, he planned to replace it with something similarly devastating to the environment: natural gas.

Despite many viewing natural gas as a more efficient, or clean, alternative to the highly polluting coal, natural gas still emits copious amounts of carbon dioxide and methane; two of the most common greenhouse gases that are highly contributing to global warming.

But, since Biden has threatened his highly coal-reliant state’s economy, Manchin has been vehemently opposing the passage of the bill. To Manchin, it appears that shifting entirely away from using unclean fuels and cutting emissions, something that is being heavily urged by scientists at this time to avoid further global catastrophe, is simply not as important as the possibility of the hundreds of thousands of dollars he could continue to make off of his state’s coal production.

Even more recently, President Biden, while still attempting to push a climate deal through Congress, has encouraged large oil companies to increase production, calling eliminating the use of fossil fuels and converting to cleaner energy “just not rational,” and using that as an excuse to counterintuitively support the use, and more specifically the increased production, of fossil fuel.

Tragically, this is the mindset of most leaders all over the world, and this has become the main source of frustration for those of us who must inherit this warming planet in years to come. We can see how much our futures rely on the decision-making of those who value money over the health of the environment in which we all must live.

In past meetings of world nations on the topic of climate change, such as the one in Copenhagen in 2009 and the aforementioned 2015 Paris Accord, pledges were made, but without any sort of serious consequences occurring for those refusing to meet the agreed-upon initiatives. As a result, many countries, like the U.S. and China — the world’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide — have slacked far behind. 

So how do we know COP26, the latest of these climate meetings, will be different? 

We don’t.

The long-term results of this year’s climate summit will not be as impressive as we direly need them to be if leading contributors are not held accountable and put in check in ways that don’t gamble away the Earth for future generations. World leaders, who have the required means and the resources, must lead monumental efforts no matter the monetary expenses, to curb the effects of climate change, rather than making empty promises that only waste our world’s limited time.

They need to commit and they need to do it now. If they do not, we will continue to reap the fatal consequences of their inaction for years to come.