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The Laziska coal-fired power plant near Katowice, Poland, where the U.N. climate change conference was held. The Laziska coal-fired power plant near Katowice, Poland, where the U.N. climate change conference is being held, Dec. 12, 2018 (Photo by Monika Skolimowska for dpa via AP Images).

The Uneven Global Response to Climate Change

Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019

Recently published climate science ultimately underscores the same points: The impacts of climate change are advancing faster than experts had previously predicted, and they are increasingly irreversible. The latest blockbuster report, from a United Nations grouping of biodiversity experts in early May, found that 1 million species are now in danger of extinction unless dramatic changes are made to everything from fuel sources to agricultural production. Despite these warnings, however, scientists confirm that the world remains on pace to blow past the goal of restricting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, likely with catastrophic consequences.

Persistent climate skepticism from key global figures, motivated in part by national economic interests, is slowing diplomatic efforts to systematically address the drivers of climate change. In particular, U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement immediately undermined the pact but has also had long-term implications. Countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia, who were never eager to participate in the first place, now have cover to back away from their commitments.

The agreement may now face substantial hurdles, but that did not stop negotiators from making substantive progress during the latest round of talks in December 2018. Negotiators put in place an ambitious system of monitoring and reporting on carbon emissions for nations that remain part of the agreement. One immediate problem, though, is that there is no funding mechanism to support these requirements.

Frustration with the slow progress and persistent challenges toward achieving increasingly urgent targets has spurred newfound activism, particularly among young people. The Fridays for Future movement, with its coordinated student walkouts to demand action on climate change, has become the face of this wave of protests and may prove a political threat to parties that downplay climate action. The gains by Green parties in European Parliamentary elections in May show just how potent a voting issue climate change can be.

WPR has covered climate change in detail and continues to examine key questions about what will happen next. Will Friday for Future upend existing political orders and usher in new, climate-focused leaders? What role will climate change play in the upcoming U.S. presidential election? Will global leaders manage to transform ambitious emissions goals into actions? Below are some of the highlights of WPR's coverage.

Our Most Recent Coverage

Africa’s Crippling Drought Shows the Importance of Climate Change Adaptation

Persistent drought conditions across large swaths of Africa have left tens of millions in need of food assistance, particularly in the semi-arid eastern and southern regions of the continent. These areas are on the forefront of the fight against global climate change and will be increasingly hard-pressed to adapt as extreme weather events like droughts, floods and hurricanes become more common.

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Climate Change Diplomacy

The global political effort to address climate change is moving ahead, despite the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris agreement. But it is unclear if global leaders will ever agree to measures that rise to the level of what is needed. Success hinges particularly on the continued participation of major emitters, including India and China, which is not a guarantee. The effort could receive a much-needed boost if Trump is defeated in 2020 and a new president moves quickly to recommit U.S. leadership and resources to the effort. But even that is uncertain.

Impact, Mitigation & Adaptation

The developing world is actually leading the way on mitigation and adaption efforts. Morocco has invested heavily in solar power, and India has implemented a moratorium on any new coal plants. It’s no surprise that some of the most ambitious mitigation and adaptation efforts are coming from countries that are most immediately menaced by the effects of climate change. And as those impacts spread, in the form of drought and conflict over increasingly scarce resources, they may spur more governments to action.But this is just a fraction of what you’ll get in WPR’s searchable library of content, where you’ll find over 10,000 articles on topics such as international diplomacy, the global refugee crisis, global finance, economic trends, gender equality, water rights, and so much more!

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in June 2019 and is regularly updated.