"I recommend this excellent primer on recent happenings in the area of international climate change from our President, Sean." 
Emeritus Professor John Sweeney

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988. The objective of the IPCC was to provide governments at all levels with scientific information that they could use to develop climate policies. Any report drawn up by the IPCC scientists had also to be approved by the governments of the 195 member countries. When the first report of the IPCC was published in 1990, some politicians attempted to water down its findings.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opened for signature at the “Rio Earth Summit” in 1992. Annual meetings of the 197 parties have since occurred as efforts to achieve the objectives of the Convention have taken place. The most successful Conference of the Parties (COP) took place in Paris in December 2015. In a legally binding international treaty, the 109 countries present agreed to keep the average global temperature below 2oC or preferably below 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels. It has since become clear that in order to achieve this goal, countries had to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050. The Paris Agreement set in motion a 5-year cycle of increasingly ambitious climate action. By 2020, all the signatories committed to ultimately reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and to reporting their current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as a means of indicating how this would occur. 

The Paris Agreement also provided a framework for financial, technical and capacity supports for economically poor nations to help them reach their greenhouse gas reduction targets and to deal with the adverse changes that climate change is bringing. In recent years, a lot of investment has been focused on reducing emissions in the transport and renewable energy sectors. This has created jobs in the wind and solar energy sectors. Many countries, regions, cities and companies have established carbon neutral goals.

 A report by UNEP in October 2021, estimated that the earth will warm by 2.7oC above pre-industrial levels. This would be disastrous in terms of flooding, heatwaves, droughts, warming seas and rising sea-levels. Many scientists believe that this could lead to a dangerous tipping point.

 In 1999 I wrote a book called Greening the Christian Millennium, In chapter 3 entitled, “Global Warming A Challenge to Christians,” I referred to a study done by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in 1997 which recommended that a EU wide ‘greenhouse gas tax’ should be levied on all polluters in the industrial, agricultural and transport sectors.  Professor John FitzGerald, then of the ESRI, was very critical of the Irish government’s dilatory stance on carbon tax, and it took many years for such a tax to materialise.

Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC

On August 9th, 2021, Volume 1 of the 6th Assessment Report of the IPCC was published. The findings were based on 14,000 studies and the work of more than 200 scientists. To date, it is the clearest and most comprehensive account of the science of climate change. Dr Tamsin Edwards from King’s College London, one of the lead authors, points out that climate science has improved significantly since the previous report in 2013. In that report, human influence on climate change was “clear” whereas in the new report it is “unequivocal.”

According to Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, the Report is a ‘code red for humanity’. The evidence of climate change is irrefutable. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture are choking our planet and putting millions of lives of humans and other creatures at risk. He pointed out that more than 30M people were displaced by climate change in 2020.[1]

Since the industrial revolution, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 280 to over 416 parts per million today. The reason is that humans, especially those in rich and industrialised countries are burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas to heat their homes, power their industrial and transport sectors and intensify agricultural production.[2]

The IPCC report makes it clear that the concentration of CO2 is greater than at any time in the past 2M years. One reason for this is that wildfires globally have produced record emissions of CO2.[3] As a result, the average global temperature has increased by 1.1oC above pre-industrial levels. The warmer atmosphere, land and oceans has caused more severe droughts, floods and typhoons in recent years. In summer 2021, heavy rains in Germany, Holland and Belgium caused riverbanks to burst, flooding entire towns and villages and destroying highways. More than 160 people lost their lives. 

Those opposed to climate change action

In July 2021, Royal Dutch Shell published its annual environmental report. In that document it boasted that it was investing heavily in renewable energy by installing thousands of charging points for electric vehicles. On precisely the same day Shell also published another report in which it revealed that its largest donation last year was to the American Petroleum Institute which lobbies the US Congress for favourable treatment for oil companies. Most other oil companies are doing the same, claiming that they are promoting renewable energy, while, at the same time, seeking to weaken environmental legislation.[4]  Will the opponents of radical climate change action, especially the fossil fuel companies, continue to obstruct the drastic actions needed to mitigate global warming? More than 500 lobbyists from fossil fuel companies – oil, gas and coal – were present in Glasgow. This is more than any previous COP. Many activists likened it to inviting the tobacco companies to an international conference on smoking and lung cancer.

In October 2021, House Democrats in the USA began questioning the executives of some of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies: Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Shell, over allegations that for years they had spread disinformation about the role played by fossil fuels in global warming in order to slow action on climate change.[5]

Some media also spread disinformation about the relationship between burning fossil fuel and climate change. The journalist, John Gibbons makes the point that the Rupert Murdoch media empire, especially Fox News in the US, do not often present the real, long-term damage which is being done by global warming. Some of his news outlets in Australia claimed that the recent fires there were caused by arsonists. [6]

Impact of a warming world

2020 was the joint hottest year ever recorded. The Arctic and northern Siberia saw extreme average temperatures of more than 3oC above the long-term average. In the wake of the heatwaves in the United States and Canada in summer 2021, climate scientists such as Dr. Friederike from the University of Oxford and Geert Jan van Oldenborgh of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, now believe that rising temperatures are coming faster and hitting harder than they had previously projected.[7] This will mean that more extreme heatwaves are becoming a nightmare for millions of people around the world. Living in many tropical areas of the world will be more difficult for human beings in the future. At present, almost 40% of the world’s population live in the tropics, though that figure will rise to 50% by 2050.[8]

Severe weather

Massive wildfires which burned in Australia, Siberia, Greece, Turkey and California, bear the hallmark of climate change. In September 2021, Hurricane Ida began in the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall in Louisiana with winds of 240 kph.[9] As it barrelled into New York City, 3” of rain fell in a single hour shattering all previous records. Roads turned into rivers and at least 13 people died, many drowned in their basements. The ferocity of this storm is a clear indicator that climate change is now in place. As the climate gets warmer, more intense hurricanes and devastating flooding events will happen which will destabilize societies. In 2021, a study of 20 years of data published in the Lancet Planetary Health found that extreme weather is responsible for at least 5M deaths each year.[10]

Climate change is affecting the Gulf Stream

Climate scientists have detected warning signs that climate change could lead to the collapse of the Gulf Stream. They have found that it is at its lowest point in 1,600 years and could collapse completely.[11] Global warming weakens the Gulf Stream by increasing the temperature of the ocean and decreasing its salinity as fresh water from ice melting in Greenland and the Arctic enters the oceans. The collapse of the Gulf Stream would be disastrous, causing freezing winters in Northern Europe. Niklas Boers, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, believes that the signs of destabilisation are already visible.[12]

Sea-Level rise

The warmer atmosphere and oceans mean that the late summer Arctic Sea ice has decreased by 40% in a mere 30 years. In this warmer world, massive icebergs and glaciers are melting in Greenland, the Arctic and the Himalayas leading to a significant rise in sea-levels. The situation is even more unpredictable in Antarctica where the collapse of two glaciers in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could over centuries raise ocean levels by 3 metres.[13] It is also true that a significant part of the Greenland ice sheet is on the brink of collapse. The ice cap there is 3 km deep, and it contains enough ice to raise sea-levels a few metres.[14] If this happens countries like Bangladesh will lose land and many coastal cities like Manila will be flooded. Some island nations such as Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean may disappear in the next 50 years.


Most of the CO2 released into the atmosphere over the past 200 years has come from rich, industrialised countries, yet the worst impact is often felt in poor countries such as Mozambique where a prolonged drought is currently causing a famine. Many people feel that drought will become the next pandemic since 1.5B people have been directly affected during the past 20 years. The economic cost is estimated to be $124B. Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary General’s special representative for disaster risk reduction said: “Drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic and there is no vaccine to cure it. Most of the world will be living in water-stressed areas in the next few years.”[15]  As  far back as 2009, Ismail Serageldin, then  vice-president of the World Bank said that “the wars of the 21st century will be about water, unless we change the way we manage water.”[16] This is even more true today, since the supply of fresh water is being depleted by climate change. The WMO has warned that more than 5B people across the globe could have inadequate access to water by 2050. North Africa, Central Asia and Southern Asia will be badly affected.[17]

 Ending the fossil fuel era

Given the extreme weather, which was experienced in 2020 and 2021, a report published in Nature in September 2021 concluded that 60% of the planet’s remaining oil and natural gas and 90% of its coal reserves should remain in the ground by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels.[18]

IPCC Report 2021

The IPCC report was published three months before world leaders met at COP 26 in Glasgow to discuss climate change. Almost 100 world leaders attended. It is crucial that countries make drastic cuts in their emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly from coal burning. Recent research has shown that the demand for new coal-fired plants has collapsed since the Paris agreement in 2015. There are now 44 countries which have agreed not to build any further coal-fired plants.[19]

Request from poor people to postpone COP26

In September 2021, a global coalition of more than 1,500 green groups called for the COP26 climate talks to be postponed due to fears that delegates from the world’s most vulnerable countries would face exclusion.[20] Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people, including Mohamed Adow, the director of the climate and energy think tank “Power Shifts Africa,” called for a postponement until the spring of 2022. The reason given was that only 1.4% of the global south have been vaccinated because the G7 countries failed to waive patents on vaccines and gave priority to vaccinating their own citizens. Unvaccinated people, like himself were afraid to go to Glasgow because of a spike in Covid-19 numbers in Scotland. The British government offered to give vaccines to unvaccinated delegates and to pay for their quarantining in hotels. Mohamed Adow was clear that the world did not need a climate conference where the voice of the poor, who are most affected by climate change, would not be heard. [21]

Action we can take

While the IPCC report is certain that major climate changes are inevitable and irreversible, there is much that humans can do to stop global warming from intensifying in the coming decades. The most important action is to cut emissions by 50% by 2030 and to eliminate them completely by 2050.

Irish Situation

In the run-up to COP26, Ireland’s record is poor at reducing greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane. Changing will not be easy as 35% of greenhouse gases in Ireland come from agriculture. The Irish government’s Food Vision 2030 plans to increase agricultural exports, mainly dairy and livestock, by 50% in the next decade.  Little thought is given to lowering our methane emissions by reducing our dairy herd which has hugely increased in the past 10 years. In the new two five-year carbon budgets which the Irish government is committed to implementing, it will be necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030. The latest projections show that Ireland is well behind on achieving this reduction. In fact, figures published by the EPA indicate that there will be an increase of 1.6 percent in emissions in 2021.[22]

In October 2021, a report commissioned by the Irish Farmers Journal stated that to comply with Ireland’s cut in greenhouse gas emissions, Ireland would need to cut 4.9B litres of milk, more than half of the 8.3B litres currently produced annually.[23] The report claims that this could cost the Irish economy €7.8B per annum. It states that the dairy industry is worth €13.1B to the economy and supports 17,000 families and 56,400 jobs in both farming and processing.[24] Given this political background, the need to reduce Ireland’s dairy herd will be fiercely contested.

The environmental writer, John Gibbons asked whether Irish agriculture, focused on exporting much of its dairy and beef production, plays an important role in feeding hungry people. This was claimed by the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, in a Prime Time programme on  RTE in October 2021. According to him “Ireland contributes significantly to feeding people around the world. Tonight, 700 million people will go to bed hungry.”[25] In fact, Gibbons claims that Irish beef and dairy products may have the opposite effect. Locally produced milk costs $1 in Senegal whereas milk imported from Europe, including Irish milk, costs only half that price because of subsidies given to European farmers. The net result is that the Common Agriculture Policy promotes food insecurity in Africa, not food security, as claimed.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia and China are using Irish powdered milk to feed their babies. This market is worth over €1B. This product directly replaces breast feeding and can hardly be considered as contributing to global food security.  Gibbons points to the facts that according to the Central Statistics Office Ireland imports about a quarter of a million tons of potatoes, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and apples each year. Given our temperate climate, all these foods could be grown in Ireland. According to Gibbons the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation  claims that Ireland is a net importer of food. This narrative about Irish agriculture is very different from that proclaimed by Minister McConalogue and farm organisations and it needs to be heard during this crucial period where Ireland is attempting to lower greenhouse gas emissions across every section of the economy.

Research by scientists in the USA and Australia have demonstrated remarkable methane reductions of up to 80% when small amounts of seaweed called asparagopsis is added to the ruminant’s diet. Because that form of seaweed does not grow well in north-west Europe, scientists from the Irish state agriculture body Teagasc are researching the ability of local seaweed to reduce methane emissions in ruminants. Maria Hayes of SeaSolutions has achieved 11-30% reduction using local seaweed.[26] Though not a silver bullet, such approaches may offer opportunities for  lowering methane emissions. 

New technologies are also being developed in other countries. One of these aims to make milk from fungi and other microorganisms. Producing milk in this way could transform dairy agriculture and reduce substantially methane emissions. An Israeli company called Imagindairy is using such technology and is promising to have cows’ milk without cows in the shops by 2023. Carlotte Lucas from Good Food Institute (GFI) believes that this technology might be a “gamechanger in terms of significantly reducing methane emissions from the dairy sector.”[27] Tom Dunne, vice-president of European Dairy Farmers, is not convinced. According to him, it will always be missing something. “Cows are a one-million-year-old natural system for producing milk. Do you want to feed something from a lab to your kids and then only find out later it might not be quite right? It’s Frankenstein stuff.”[28]

Data Centres

In the autumn of 2021, EirGrid the state-owned electric power transmission in Ireland, published its annual Generation Capacity Statement (GCS). The content of their report was explosive. It revealed that there might be power outages during the winter of 2021-2022 and the following few years because of a shortfall between supply and demand. The main reason for this situation is that data centres will demand more and more electricity. In Eirgrid’s own projections in a medium demand scenario, data centres will account for 25% of all electricity by the year 2030. Without additional connections, demand from this sector could reach 40% by 2030[29]. Amazon has pledged that 100% of its infrastructure, including data centres will be powered by renewable energy by 2025.[30] In autumn 2021, Amazon employed 4,000 people in Ireland.

Google, Facebook, Amazon, TikTok and Microsoft are opposed to any moratorium on data centres. The Irish government is considering introducing regulations which would designate data centres as ‘strategic structures ‘according to The Business Post because of their importance for big-tech industries. However, most people believe that this will make it impossible to meet Ireland’s legal targets to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 51% by 2030.[31] It is almost certain that we will have to delay the closing of the Tarbert oil-fired power station in Kerry and the coal burning plant in Moneypoint in Clare and buy in extra capacity at great expense. In a poll conducted by Red C in September 2021, 59% wanted data centre development to be controlled to reduce the risk of electricity rolling blackouts.[32]

Despite these figures in terms of lowering Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions the Taoiseach, Micheal Martin still insists that “we can’t allow this (energy) crisis to derail the medium and long-term imperative of meeting our climate change targets.”[33]

Cost of retrofitting homes

Retrofitting homes will be expensive. In Ireland it is estimated that retrofitting a house will cost between €25,000 and €50,000 The cost for retrofitting 1.5 million houses which includes the insulation of walls, roofs, floors, window upgrades and proper ventilation will come to between €10-15B. The grants available run to 25% or 30% of the costs. Still, few enough people have access to this kind of money.  The Irish government’s plan is to group houses together as they work on retrofitting. This means that there is a role for local government.

Helping financially poor countries tackle climate change

The G7 is an inter-governmental political forum consisting of seven of the richest countries in the world. At the G7 summit in Cornwall in June 2021, Boris Johnson promised to protect the natural world and seriously tackle climate change. The other G7 leaders repeated their intention of keeping the rise in global temperature to no more than 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels. But the G7 did not come forward with any immediate cash commitment to help poorer countries deal with climate change. Sufficient money is not being made available to poor countries to address the problem. In fact, the United Kingdom’s decision to reduce overseas aid from 0.7% to 0.5% is a clear confirmation of this.

Rich countries such as the UK should be willing to help poor countries to avoid opting for petrochemical era fuels such as coal, gas or oil and move instead to a global green industrial revolution that could transform all our lives for the better.  In September 2021, the Foreign Office revealed that there would be cuts of more than 40% to the foreign aid budget because of money spent dealing with Covid.[34]  The foreign aid budget in East Africa, once seen as a priority for British aid, has shrunk from £240 million in 2020-2021 to a mere £107.5 million in 2022. In 2009, at the COP in Copenhagen, rich countries pledged $100B a year in climate finance by 2020. Unfortunately, that target has never been met. Asking poor countries at the Glasgow summit to undertake serious climate action while giving them less money to pursue clean energy strategies does not make sense. John Sauver, executive director of Greenpeace UK has been quite critical of the UK’s position. “Despite the green soundbites, Johnson has simply reheated old promises and peppered his plan with hypocrisy, rather than taking real action to tackle the climate and nature emergency.” [35]

Britain’s leadership at the Glasgow summit was also undermined by the fact that it will be telling countries such as China and India that they will need to reduce their dependence on coal while the British government is hoping to get permission to open a new £160M Woodhouse Colliery project in Cumbria which is estimated to provide 532 jobs directly in an area which has high levels of unemployment.[36]

The British government is also interested in exploiting the new Cambo oil field situated 125km to the west of the Shetland Islands. This is a large field containing over 170 million barrels of oil and opening it up would deepen the climate crisis for decades[37]. The government says that the original “licensing approval” for the site goes back to 2001[38]. The reality is that every country needs to transition to renewable energy as quickly as possible. The government should lead the way in developing renewable energy in areas such as offshore wind farms and wave power. 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated clearly that the exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year and no new coal-fired power stations can be built, if the world is to stay within the safe limits of global heating and meet the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.[39]

In September 2021, despite serious concerns about climate change, the barrier to the expansion of Heathrow airport was cleared by the British government. It is estimated that the new runway will boost Heathrow’s capacity by 50%, allowing it to fly 280,000 extra flights a year.


China, with a population of 1.3B is the largest carbon emitting country in the world.[40]  China’s Nationally Determined Contribution submitted on October 28th, 2021, commits the country to four main approaches. It would peak its emissions of CO2 by 2030. The country would also lower the carbon emissions intensity of its economy by 65% compared with 2005 levels. It would ensure that renewable energy sources make up a quarter of its energy mix; and it would increase its forest cover.[41]

China has also pledged not to build coal-fired plants in other countries and to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2060. However, as demand grows for more electricity, Chinese factories and industries are experiencing a serious shortage of electricity and are even suffering from blackouts. In response, Chinese political leaders are encouraging their industries to mine and burn coal, despite their commitments to lower their CO2 emissions because of climate change.[42] Currently, tax incentives are being drafted to promote the building of coal-fired power plants. Regulators have encouraged Chinese banks to lend money to the coal sector of the economy even when they breach greenhouse gas levels which were introduced in response to climate change concerns. In October 2021, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang emphasised the importance of a regular supply of electricity after various areas in China have been plunged into darkness.[43] In the context of the climate change debate, Beijing’s renewed embrace of coal is causing alarm because the latest scientific research insists that greenhouse emissions must be cut by 50% to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

China is also facing its own financial issues because of the massive debts run-up by China’s real estate developer Evergrande and other property companies. As a result the entire Chinese economy is slowing down under the weight of debt which has accumulated since the financial crisis in 2008. Many believe that it will follow the same pattern as the collapse of the property bubble in Japan in the 1980s which crippled the Japanese economy.[44] If these pressures continue, the Chinese economy and the political system could come under enormous pressures during the next decade as the population ages.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping did not attend COP26.  This was regrettable as China is the world’s top emitter of carbon. However, China’s per capita emissions are far below that of the United States. The United States per capita greenhouse gas emissions is 15.5 tonnes as against 7 tonnes for China.


In 2021 the United States experienced severe weather events in many areas of the country. June 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded in areas of the United States. The Pacific Northwest experienced an extraordinary heatwave with temperatures reaching over 43oC.

In 2021, drought in the Western United States set a 122-year record. Farmers, ranchers and indigenous people all suffered extensively from the drought. These tinder dry conditions can lead to wildfires. The wildfires in California were the worst ever, destroying vast areas of forest and many properties. Hurricane Ida devastated many areas in the country from Louisiana to New York.

In response to these events, President Biden has vowed to increase the United States ability to respond to extreme weather by lowering carbon emissions significantly. In October 2021, he had two bills pending on Capitol Hill which included money for infrastructural work such as repairing roads and bridges, social programmes that will care for the elderly and will bring down kindergarten costs for middle class people. The bills include large amounts of money to tackle climate change by investing heavily in renewable forms of energy. One of the bills has been passed, the second has still not been voted upon.

One of the people blocking the legislation from going through the Senate is Joe Manchin. For over 30 years, Manchin has made a lot of money from Enersystems Inc., a coal brokerage company which he founded in 1988. It is now run by his son. In Congress, Manchin has publicly objected to the clean energy provisions in the $3.5Tn bill and supports building gas-fired power plants.

One can understand the frustration of someone like Joseph Aldy who helped craft the climate change bill during the presidency of Barack Obama. He finds it extraordinary that US energy policy is being drafted by a supporter of the fossil fuel industry, rather than being based on the science of climate change.[45]  Manchin does support some climate control methods as long as the policies allow for the continued burning of coal, oil and gas. In 2010, Manchin opposed Obama’s bill because it was bad for West Virginia, a coal-producing state. In 2021, Manchin plans to amend President Biden’s Clean Energy Performance Programme worth almost $159B which is designed to replace most of the US’s gas and coal-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear power over the next decade.

Writing in the New York Times, Christopher Flavelle makes the point that while Manchin is blocking President Biden’s bill, his state of West Virginia is very exposed to severe weather and serious flooding. He claims “new data shows that the people of West Virginia stand to suffer disproportionately as climate change intensifies. Unlike those in other flood-exposed states, most residents in mountainous West Virginia have little room to relocate from the waterways that increasingly threaten their safety.”[46] It is important to emphasise that not dealing with global warming will be much more costly than dealing with it now.

Climate change and the Churches

The Catholic Church gave poor leadership on the dangers of climate change during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.  I attended many COP meetings on climate change during the 1900s and the 2,000s and found very little, if any, participation by the official Catholic Church at these important events. One of the first places where climate change was discussed by Pope John Paul II was in Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All Creation, which was published on January 1st, 1990. Unfortunately, Pope John Paul II mixed up climate change with the depletion of the ozone layer when he claimed that “the gradual depletion of the ozone layer and the related greenhouse effect has now reached crisis proportions as a consequence of industrial growth, massive urban concentrations and vastly increased energy needs.” Now, just over a decade later, climate change is seen by the Catholic Church as one of the greatest challenges to both humans and the planet.

In 1983, the World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly in Vancouver adopted a process focused on “Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation” (JPIC) through which churches were encouraged to work together on these interrelated themes. Many churches became increasingly focused on environmental concerns during this period, adopting policy statements and initiating education and advocacy activities on specific issues. The JPIC process culminated in a World Convocation on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Seoul Korea in 1990 which I attended. The conference came up with ten theological affirmations and specific covenants for action linking economic inequity, militarism, ecological destruction, and racial injustice and the theological, ethical and spiritual basis for affirming and sustaining life in its fullness

The WCC has given courageous leadership on climate change and other ecological issues and has made it very clear that dealing with climate change would require profound changes in every aspect of human life: transport, accommodation, industry and agriculture. In Solidarity with Victims of Climate Change, which was published in 2002, the WCC argued that the ecological, economic and political aspects of climate change ought to be assessed from a justice perspective, especially in the light of the growing gap between rich and poor globally,

Laudato Si’

In paragraph 23 of the encyclical, Laudato Si’ On Care for Our Common Home it is clear that “there is a very solid scientific consensus indicating that presently we are witnessing a disturbing warming of the climate system.” In the same paragraph Pope Francis makes it clear that human beings need to change their lifestyle as well as their production and consumption patterns in order to combat climate change. In paragraph 25 he points out that the poor who did little to cause climate change will be most affected by it.  He writes “Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural resources and ecosystem services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate changes or to face natural disasters and their access to social services and protection is very limited.”

In 2019, Pope Francis endorsed the temperature limit targets recommended by the Paris COP in 2015. That same year he declared a ‘climate emergency,’ because he believed that “future generations stand to inherit a greatly spoiled world. Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay the cost of our generation’s irresponsibility.”[47]

Summary and Postscript to COP26

In this short paper on the perils of climate change I have outlined the enormous damage which climate change is causing to our planet, in terms of extreme weather, including droughts and floods and the rise in the level of our oceans. I go on to assess the efforts which various countries are putting in place to reduce their greenhouse gas. As a postscript, some very important leaders were not at COP26 including: Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia and Xi Jinping, the Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party. The US President, Joe Biden, came to Glasgow, but without having nailed down a bill in Congress which would underpin the development of clean energy in that country.

The Glasgow COP welcomed the finding of the 2021 IPCC report, which seemed to suggest that the parties were there to do business. The first draft of the final document called on the parties to accelerate and phase out coal power and the removal of subsidies for fossil fuels. Some countries: India, China, Australia and Saudi Arabia, refused to accept this text. The final draft that was produced on Saturday, November 13rd 2021 did not speak of phasing out coal.  Instead, it included weaker words as follows: “including escalating efforts to phase down unabated coal power, and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

But Glasgow failed to reach the crucial objective of ‘keeping 1.5 alive.’ The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) – an independent, non-profit scientific body stated that pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 were totally inadequate and would  lead to a very challenging 2.4oC rise above pre-industrial times. Mary Robinson agreed that some progress was made at Glasgow, “but nowhere near enough to avoid climate disaster. While millions around the world are already in crisis, not enough leaders were in crisis mode. People will see this as a historically shameful dereliction of duty.”[48] She went on to point out that anyone under 60 is likely to live in a world that is less liveable and face terrible fires, floods, drought and that millions of people will have to leave their homes. The situation will be worse still for those under 30.

Shauna Aminath, the environment minister of the Maldives, an archipelago of low-lying islands in the Indian Ocean that could be inundated within three decades  expressed her frustration. “What looks balanced and pragmatic to other parties will not help the Maldives adapt in time,” she said. “It will be too late for the Maldives.”The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was not as dismissive. He said that "he approved texts are a compromise. They took important steps, but unfortunately, the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions [49] A lot will depend on how thoroughly the world prepares for COP27 in Egypt next year.

Sean McDonagh SSC

[1] Cormac McQuinn, “Martin urges UN Security Council to add climate change to agenda,” The Irish Times, September 24th,.

[2] Julien Mercille, “Vested interests turn up heat in battle against global warming,” Sunday Independent, August 12, 2021, page 32.

[3] Adam Vaughan, “Wildfires produce record CO2” New Scientist, August 28th, 2021, page 18.

[4] Chris McGreal, “Climate crimes, How a powerful US lobby group helps big oil to block climate action,” The Guardian, July 19th 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/19/big-oil-climate-crisis-lobby-group-api

[5] Hiroko Tabuchi, “Oil Executives Begin Testimony on Industry’s Role in Climate Disinformation, “The New York Times, 28th October 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/28/climate/oil-executives-house-disinformation-testimony.html

[6] John Gibbons, “How one tycoon mendacity has dragged us to the age of extinction,” Business Post, September 19th, 2021, page 31.

[7] Jonathan Watts, World ‘must step up preparations for extreme heat,’ The Guardian, July 2021. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/iul/07/world-must-step-up-preparations-for-extreme-heat.

[8] Oliver Milman, “Climate breakdown pushing the tropics to limits of livability,” The Guardian, March 9th, 2021, page 27.

[9] Adam Vaughan, “Hurricane Ida climate link”, NewScientist September 4th, 2021, page 7.

[10] Donna Lu and Lisa Cox, “Extreme temperatures blamed for 5 million deaths each year,” The Guardian, July 8th, 2021, page `13.

[11] Damien Carrington, “Climate crisis; Scientists sport warning signs of Gulf Stream collapse,” Irish Examiner, June 6th, 2021.

[12] ibid

[13] Michael Marshall, “Antarctic glaciers at risk of unpredictable collapse,” The Guardian, 2nd  May 2020, page 13.

[14] Adam Vaughan, “Greenland can ’t go green,” New Scientist, May 4th 2021, page 23.

[15] Fiona Harvey, “Drought; Next pandemic” The Guardian, June 17th 2021. https://www. Theguardianh.com/environment/2021/jun/17/the-next-pandemic-drought-is-a-hidden-global-crisis-un-says.

[16] Gideon Rachman, “The threattreat of conflict over water is growing,” Financial Times, page 17.

[17] Patrick Greenfield and Phoebe Weston, “Five billion could face water shortage by 2050,”  Irish Examiner, 26th October, 2021, page 6.

[18] John Keefe and Rachel Ramirez, “Our underwater future: What sea level will look like around the globe. ” CNN, October 12, 2021. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/12/world/3-degrees-sea-level-rise-climate-central/index.html

[19] Jillian Ambrose, “Most plans for new coal plants scrapped since the Paris agreement,” The Guardian, September 14th, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/14/most-plans-for-new-coal-plants-scrapped-since-paris-agreement.

[20] Karl, Mathiesen,  “Green groups call to postpone COP26 over unequal access, UK government responds by announcing new funding for delegates’ hotel quarantine.” Politico, September 7th, 2021. https://www.politico.eu/article/cop26-climate-change-green-groups-postpone-unequal-access

[21] Mohamed Adow, “With many African climate activists unable to access vaccines, should COP26 go ahead? The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/14/climate-activists-vaccines-cop26-hoarding-crisis-talks

[22] Daniel Murray, Lorcan Allen and Michael Brennan, “Climate targets already in doubt as emissions to increase this year,” Business Post, October 24th, 2021, page I and 2.

[23] Caroline O’Doherty, “Climate action could jeopardise 32,000 dairy jobs, report claims,” Irish Independent, October 8th, 2021, page 22

[24] Phelim O’Neill and Anne Finnegan, “56,400 rural jobs on the line,” Irish Farmer’s Journal, October 30th, 2021, page 1.the

[25] John Gibbons, “Ireland must plan ahead now to secure full food independence,” Business Post, October 31st, 2021. Page 30

[26]  Clodagh Kilcoyne and Conor Humphries,” Irish Independent,” November 18th, 2021, page 23.

[27] Sophie Kevany, “‘Cow’s milk without cows’ start-up raises $13m in seed funding’, ” The Guardian, November 17th, 2021, page 35.

[28] ibid

[29] Roisin Burke, “Varadkar told Amazon that Eirgrid could not guarantee extra supply for data centres,” Business Post, October 19th, 2021, page 4.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Daniel Murray, “More data centres mean Ireland cannot meet 51% climate target,” Business Post, page June 13th, 2021, page 3.6

[32] Michael Brennan, “Majority of votes believe data centre construction should be restricted, “Business Post, September 12th, 2021, page 2.

[33] John Downing, “Energy supply and price crisis must not stop climate action, says Taoiseach,”  Irish Independent, October 8th 2021, page 5.

[34] Patrick Wintour, “Climate and equality hit has foreign aid budget cut 40%,” The Guardian. September 24, 2021, page 4.

[35] Fiona Harvey and Toby Helm, “All hot air: UK commits to climate action but not to new funding,” The Observer, June 12th, 2021. https: www.theguardian,com.environment.2021/jun12/all-hot-air-uk-commits-to-climate-action-but-not-new-funding.

[36] Neil Hume, “Mine go-ahead risk denting UK’s authority, inquiry told,” The Financial Times, September 9th, 2021. Page 2.

[37] Peter Capaldi, “A new oilfield would be a disaster,” The Guardian, October 11th, 2021, page 4

[38] Harrier Bradshaw, BBC News, August 17th, 2021.

[39] Fiona Harvey, “Energy expert: only way to keep the world safe is to stop oil and gas investment now,” The Guardian, 18th May 2021, page 30.

[40] David Stanway, “China’s hard climate stance with the US imperils Glasgow talks,” The Irish Examiner, September 16th, 2021.

[41] By Somini Sengupta, China’s New Climate Pledge Changes Little, in Bad Omen for Global Talks, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/28/climate/china-climate-pledge.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Climate%20and%20Environment

[42]  Keith Bradsher, “China’s Power Problems Expose a Strategic Weakness,” New York Times, October 13th, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/13/business/china-electricity-shortage.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Business

[43] Rob Davies, “Blow to COP26 as China pushes coal and gas plan,” The Guardian, October 13th 2021, page 1 and 7.

[44] David McWilliams, “If China goes the way of Japan all bets are off,” The Irish Times, September 25th 2021. Page 3 News Review.

[45] Ibid

[46] Christopher Flavelle, “As Manchin Blocks Climate Plan, His State Can’t Hold Back Floods,” The New York Times, October 17th, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/17/climate/manchin-west-virginia-flooding.html

[47] Fiona Harvey and Jillian Ambrose, “Pope Francis declares ‘climate emergency’ and urges action.” The Guardian, June 14th, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/14/pope-francis-declares-climate-emergency-and-urges-action

[48] Kevin O’Sullivan,” Cop26 outcome ‘nowhere near enough’, say Irish campaigners,” The Irish Times, November 14th, 2021. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/cop26-outcome-nowhere-near-enough-say-irish-campaigners-1.4728339

[49] UN chief says outcome of COP26 'not enough', Business  Standard, https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/un-chief-says-outcome-of-cop26-not-enough-121111400047_1.html