Есо style
Climate change: why are there still people who do not believe in it?
Olha Husakova,
a specialist on climate change adaptation of the NGO «Ecoaction»

There are many scientists who have refuted the theory of «global warming» and the impact of CO2 emissions on the climate. What is considered the generally accepted climate concept now?

97% of the world's climatologists agree that the cause of climate change is greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

The main sources of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are mining, transportation, and fossil fuel combustion, industry, agriculture and waste.

Greenhouse gas emissions have been significantly reduced, with TPPs' construction being ceased around the world, energy and industry being switched to renewables, and emissions reduced along with the reduction in electricity consumption caused by the start of the pandemic. Is this enough to prevent a climate crisis? If that is not enough, should we continue to switch to RES and reduce emissions, because climate change is still going on?

Even such a short-term reduction in emissions will have little impact on the long-term and accumulated atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Humans still produce too much greenhouse gases. According to the International Climate Change Expert Group, to keep global temperature change at the level of 1.5 - 2 ℃, total anthropogenic emissions must be reduced by 7.6% annually from now until 2030. Finally, emissions must reach zero.

Therefore, it is very important that the world chooses the path of systemic changes in climate policy, consumer behavior, technical equipment, etc. to recover from the effects of the pandemic. This is the only reliable rescue from the worsening of climate crisis.

Unfortunately, Ukraine has not yet shown the ambition and inspiration to join the «green» recovery after the pandemic. In the ranking of countries according to the Climate Change Performance Index for 2020, Ukraine dropped to 20th place, although in 2019 it ranked 17th.

Environmental pollution knows no national borders: what one country does easily transcends borders and spreads further across the planet with air and water. If the neighboring country does not follow environmental practices, then all your efforts are in vain. Is there a chance that the concept of responsibility for non-environmental practices will ever be accepted by all countries?

Indeed, in order to overcome the global threat to the environment, it is necessary to act in a coordinated manner and unite the efforts of many countries. What are some examples of such global responsibility?

For example, in 2015, the Paris Agreement was signed to keep the average global temperature at 1.5 - 2 ℃. As of November 2019, it has been ratified by 187 countries.

Also, more than 100 countries around the world have announced their intention to achieve climate neutrality in 30 years. These countries include Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the European Union. China has also set such a goal, but for 2060.

In its National Economic Strategy for the next decade, Ukraine also pointed at the need to achieve climate neutrality by 2060. And at the end of 2019, the European Commission presented the European Green Course - a roadmap for European governments, which provides specific practical recommendations for achieving climate neutrality.

If we talk about incentives to maintain environmental security, then, as an example, we can provide carbon taxes. In March of this year, the European Parliament voted in favor of introducing a carbon tax at the border, which will enter in force in 2023. Exporting companies will need to reduce their carbon footprint if they do not want to overpay and lose profits.

Let us try to understand who and what is most responsible for emissions in Ukraine. Is this the industry, agriculture, transport, energy - that harms the environment the most?

According to the inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, most of them account for the energy sector - it is 66% in 2019. The next sectors are industry - 17%, agriculture - 13% and waste - 4%. This is when it comes to gas emissions that cause global climate change.

Each of the sectors harms the environment in its own way. Energy produces the most greenhouse gases and accelerates global warming.

Damage from industry consists of several segments: extraction of raw materials, energy consumption, cement production, chemicals and oil refining. Each of the stages affects the depletion of soils and water resources, water and air pollution.

Transport, in addition to the use of fossil fuels, is responsible for noise pollution in both settlements and natural ecosystems where the roads run.

Highways passing through natural ecosystems often cut off animals' seasonal migration routes, reducing the population of wild and rare animals, leading to biodiversity loss.

Even salting the roads has its consequences. Together with melt water in the spring, all this salt seeps into the soil and flows into rivers. All harmful substances are carried downstream and deposited in reservoirs and the sea. In the soil, they accumulate and gradually salt it, making it less suitable for healthy plant growth.

For the needs of agriculture, forests are cut down, and in their place either fields are planted or cattle are grazed. Due to improper utilization of manure, abuse of nitrogen fertilizers and their untimely application, water, air and soil are polluted with nitrates. A striking manifestation of nitrate pollution is the flowering of water with green-blue algae. This substance often gets into groundwater, and with them in the well. If their concentration is exceeded, it is fatal.

If to compare the responsibility of government, business and society for climate change - which of these strata in Ukraine is the most conscious and effective in combating the climate crisis?

Combating climate change is a complex task that requires the participation of all the parties. Today, society has reached the point of climate crisis so that only a few domestic actions can not solve everything. According to a social survey conducted in February 2020, 86% of citizens negatively assess the government's contribution to solving environmental problems. In addition, 59.6% of respondents believe that environmental protection and economic growth should exist in parity. One in five is convinced that environmental protection must be ensured, despite the possible slowdown in economic development. The option when economic growth should be ensured, despite the possible deterioration of the environmental situation gets comparatively fewer votes (14.4%).

In order for the government to develop the direction of environmental protection and take appropriate measures, there must be a request from society. Citizens should write appeals, petitions and demand reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and nature-oriented solutions.

Authorities shall pass appropriate laws and regulations that require businesses to replace equipment with modern energy-efficient one, use electricity from renewable sources, overhaul the supply network (such as water utilities), and so on.

Systemic changes are needed, and there must be cooperation between government, business and the public. So far, we lack this in Ukraine.

There is much talk now about the catastrophic consequences of climate change for Ukrainians. About deserts and floods, rising sea levels ... Which of the following is a reality we will face? What other consequences can be avoided?

Due to climate change in Ukraine, the number of cases of dangerous weather phenomena has doubled in the last three decades. During 2020, large-scale fires, floods, droughts were recorded, which caused significant damage to people and natural ecosystems. Every year, dangerous weather events will continue and worsen if not enough is done to prevent them.

The country will not miss the problem of sea level rise. NGO «Ecoaction» conducted a study «Water is coming», which shows the effects of rising sea levels in Ukraine by 2100. According to the study, about 650 thousand hectares of land fall into a potential flood zone - this is equivalent to the area of Ternopil region. 75,000 residents of Kherson, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Donetsk regions will be forced to relocate.

Area of flooded settlements
Natural disasters occur in all parts of Ukraine, so it is unlikely to escape the cataclysms. It is important to understand that the effects we are seeing now will not go away immediately, even if the temperature magically stops rising right now. Therefore, it is necessary to be ready for such events and implement measures in advance that will allow you to adapt to adverse conditions.

Adaptation, restoration of ecosystems, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are the main weapons in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Kyiv has traditionally been ranked among the worst cities in terms of air / ecology. How did we get to this, because the industry in the city is getting smaller and smaller? What are we doing wrong?

In Kyiv, 90% of air pollution is caused by transport. Over the last 20 years, the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the city has increased by 50% and of formaldehyde by 200%. This is a consequence of the growing number of cars.

Another factor influencing air quality in Ukraine is the irresistible thirst of Ukrainians to burn dead wood. When people start clearing their gardens of last year's dry grass in the spring and removing fallen leaves in the fall, almost no one composts them, but mostly burns them. It is during these periods that the concentration of dust, soot and toxins in the air from burning plastic increases, which inevitably mixes with the leaves when scooped. Moreover, climate change is also having a negative impact on air quality. In the spring of 2020, a dust storm occurred, and forest fires in the Chernobyl zone and Zhytomyr region had a negative impact on air quality in Kyiv.

In addition to mitigating global climate change, the city needs to develop public transport and micro-mobility to improve air quality - infrastructure for bicycles, scooters, monocycles, etc.

Рейтинг рівня забруднення повітря у найбільших містах світу
Recently, there were studies by Dixi group, which showed that 80% of Ukrainians are FOR renewable sources, but only 15% are willing to pay more for «green» energy. Obviously, consciousness is ahead of economic opportunities. What can Ukrainians do to prevent cost-effective climate change?

There are a number of simple steps that Ukrainians can take now. Storing energy and natural resources at home - in addition to benefiting the environment will also save people's money. Significantly reduce consumption or completely abandon animal products. Opt for public transport or bicycle for travel. Take care of natural ecosystems: forests, rivers, lakes, trees, wetlands, because they absorb and retain CO2 and help communities adapt to climate change. Team up with like-minded people to tackle climate change. Each of us can write a request to the authorities and express our position or ask what politicians are doing to protect the climate. By following the link, you can download the application template, sign it and send it to the relevant ministry. Join Ecoaction on Facebook, Instagram or subscribe to the newsletter to stay up to date with the latest energy and climate change news.