Too hot for comfort

Notwithstanding all the talk and righteous indignation, the countries that signed the so-called Paris Agreement have not cut their emissions enough to meet this target

Prime Minister Robert Abela addressing the COP27 delegates
Prime Minister Robert Abela addressing the COP27 delegates

Last week, our Prime Minister found time to fly to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt and address the climate change jamboree, COP27, where he stated the obvious as if it were some great original inspired thought: measures which truly address climate change must now be implemented.

Robert Abela insisted that Malta’s presence at COP year after year is a manifestation of Malta’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, as well as our ‘resolve’ to keep the 1.5°C target alive.

The problem is that in actual fact the world will miss the so-called 1.5°C target, regardless of what the different countries can now do, but our Prime Minister does not seem to be aware of this!

This target was adopted in the 2015 Paris agreement,  an international treaty on climate change mitigation, adaptation, and finance; rather than this target being adopted on the basis of scientific possibility, it was an emotional response to a speech made by the foreign minister of Mauritius, who had said that if the world’s average temperature were to rise by more than 1.5°C, it would be a ‘death warrant’ for small low-lying countries such as his.

Notwithstanding all the talk and righteous indignation, the countries that signed the so-called Paris Agreement have not cut their emissions enough to meet this target. In fact, global emissions have continued to rise and are still rising and the world is already about 1.2°C hotter than it was in pre-industrial times.

Emissions cannot be stopped at the flick of some switch and the rise of 1.5°C cannot be avoided. Climate Action Tracker is an independent scientific analysis made by two research organisations since 2009. It estimates that the policies that have been adopted to cut emissions will only limit global warming to a rise of 2.7°C.

The consequences of the increase in the average temperature of the globe can already be seen. Malta’s climate patterns have already started to change with colder spells in winter and hotter ones in summer. Even the onset of the summer and winter seasons are not when they used to be. The recent floods in Pakistan and this year’s unusual intense monsoon in Florida are just examples of what is happening as a result of the world becoming hotter than was considered as its norm.

The US and Europe will lose credibility with other countries if the damage of unchecked emissions were to keep on going – as it has been doing despite the Paris agreement. One must recall, of course, that the Trump administration had reneged on the agreement, only for President Biden to adopt it once again. Last year, Biden committed the US to contribute more than $11 billion annually to climate initiatives in developing countries, a promise that many consider as the bare minimum. A possible Trump return to power in two years time will again upset the apple-cart.

Other developed countries have also failed to deliver their own commitments to help poorer counties to adapt to climate change. As a result of so many years of inaction, trillions of dollars will now be needed to help these countries. It is the inaction of developed countries that has pushed up the expense to such high levels.

A recent leader in The Economist considers the possibility of radical methods to cool our planet: “Technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, now in their infancy, need a lot of attention. So does ‘solar geo-engineering’ which blocks incoming sunlight.” The leader goes on to say that both possibilities are mistrusted by activists: “the first as a false promise, the second as a scary threat”.

Still some countries might be tempted to control their temperature by using untested technologies such as spraying sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere to reduce the temperature in a particular region – a process with unknown implications that could have unpredicted nasty effects.

Even the host country of COP27, Egypt, has problems with rising temperatures, water scarcity, and soil salinity leading to shrinking crops. Moreover, Egypt persecutes its own Green NGOs! No wonder that some have criticised Egypt by portraying its hosting of COP27 as a political cover for its failures!

Words on climate change are cheap. Yet no country, it seems, is ready to put its money where the mouths is!

Bishops and pawns

The French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) announced last week that eleven bishops in France are currently under civil or canonical investigation for committing or covering-up sexual abuse.

Apparently, Pope Francis was not aware of this development when he was asked about it during an in-flight press conference on his return from Bahrain on Sunday. His reply was simply that the Church is trying to ‘clarify everything’.

“There are people within the Church who still do not see this clearly, who do not agree with this... It is a process that we are undertaking and we are carrying it out with courage, and not everyone has courage,” Pope Francis said.

While no one in the Vatican has reacted officially to the French announcement, many in Rome unofficially expressed shock and dismay.

The earthquake is all the stronger because Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, who admitted in a press release that he committed ‘reprehensible’ acts against a 14-year-old some 35 years ago, is a member of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), which is responsible for judging the perpetrators of pedocriminal acts.

He is now the fourth cardinal in the world to be implicated for committing such acts.

Officials in Rome are finally beginning to acknowledge that the rules of secrecy surrounding canon law may need to be revised.

Of course, sexual abuse is not a problem solely within the Catholic Church as clerics of several other religions have also faced sexual abuse accusations. These include the Protestant Church, the Lutherans, the Southern Baptist Church and the Mormon Church.

Even Brooklyn’s Haredi Jewish community has come under scrutiny several times for failing to report cases of abuse.

The common theme among all of these cases is that each organisation claims that they did not know the abuses were happening. But, in practically all such cases, the action taken when such abuse is discovered leaves much to be desired.