In recent years, we have probably left the Holocene, the geological era with an unusually stable climate that lasted more than 10,000 years. Agriculture and all human advanced civilizations originated in this geological age. The advancing climate crisis indicates that a huge large-scale experiment has now begun with humankind and our ecological community, adapted to the last 11,000 years or to the colder ice ages before that. The overheated climate system threatens to cause tipping points to be crossed, which could at least transform entire continents and at the same time massively fuel climate change. The consequences of these developments, which are not linear but rather erratic, cannot be estimated. If the tipping points of the climate system were to tip, this would massively endanger people's livelihoods.
Society is also a highly complex, non-linear system. Here, too, there can be tipping points at which the necessary change, which takes place so cumbersomely, suddenly progresses much faster. Many scientists are becoming nervous in view of the increasingly obvious symptoms of the crisis. At the beginning of November 2019, 11,000 of them issued an urgent appeal. More and more people of the younger generation realize that their future is at stake – and take their concerns to the streets. More than 7 million demonstrators took to the streets worldwide in September 2019 for the global climate strike. More and more players in the financial market see that the climate crisis and the foundations of life also endanger the stability of the financial market and are pushing for early restructuring measures. More and more companies, including heavy industry companies, are discussing strategies that will enable them to operate their business greenhouse gas-neutral by 2030, 2040 or 2050 at the latest.
Under the motto "Time to act", the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will take place from 2 to 13 December 2019 in Madrid, Spain, under Chile's presidency. After all, it is finally time for action in the logic of the UN negotiations. Following the decisions of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and its implementation rules last year, nothing stands in the way of decisive action: in 2020 the implementation of the first climate plans (nationally determined contributions, NDCs) under the Paris Climate Agreement will begin. On the COP25 agenda are three decisions of highest importance: 1. the political will to both improve the NDCs and formulate long-term strategies for 2050 in 2020; 2. robust rules for Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on international cooperation with and without market mechanisms and 3. the strengthening of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage as a result of its review. Further central topics are the second periodical review, technical work on the transparency framework, adaptation and climate finance. Will the Parties in Madrid summon the necessary political will to take these important decisions for a politically challenging year 2020?
Central questions for the future of the climate and thus of civilization will (also) have to be dealt with in other forums: Does economic growth not have to be redefined as a compass for economic activities of society, so that negative growth counts when ecological livelihoods shrink? Where between 1.5 and 2°C is the threshold where industrial society is no longer insurable (or only at unaffordable cost)? Doesn’t the concept of security need to be re-defined when the climate and biodiversity crisis puts huge humanitarian security issues at the centre of the challenges? How will international cooperation be organised if it now seems quite possible that megacities like Mumbai will have to be resettled by around 2050? The climate movement is demanding this transformation vehemently.
When and how will politics react?
Christoph Bals, Rixa Schwarz, David Ryfisch, Jean Paul Brice Affana, Roxana Baldrich, Sophie Bartosch, David Eckstein, Julia Grimm, Linus Herzig, Vera Künzel, Laura Schäfer, Manfred Treber and Maik Winges