The problem of climate change would not have been a big deal if the world’s total population had been half of today’s current number as well as people would not have faced the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a climate scientist.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency on the latest global developments related to climate change and the environment, such as the election of Joe Biden and Europe Green Deal, Levent Kurnaz, a professor at the Center for Climate Change and Policy Studies at Istanbul’s Bogazici University, said that if 3.9 billion people were living in the world instead of 7.9 billion now, we would neither have a COVID-19 problem nor would climate change be that bad.
“Although COVID-19 stems from human-nature interaction, the problem here is that the human population has grown too much. In the same way, climate change is an issue that is experienced since the human population has increased too much and continues to increase,” Kurnaz added.
On the basic reason for COVID-19, related to population, he went on to say that people start eating something that they normally wouldn’t due to difficulties finding something to eat and drink.
Touching on people’s perception of climate change and COVID-19, Kurnaz said that when a threat rises to number one in people’s eyes, it undermines others’ importance regardless of other’s dangers.
“Unfortunately, climate change is something that will happen in our minds in the distant future. However, COVID-19 affects us today. Therefore, it has risen to number one among current threats,” he said.
‘Green deal to strengthen Europe’s economy’
On the European Green Deal, one of the EU’s targets regarding making Europe be the first climate-neutral continent, Kurnaz said it could change international production and trade substantially in a short time.
“The European Green Deal is put forward entirely to boost the EU economy. However, in Europe, the peoples want Europe to grow green. So there is pressure from below for green growth. At this point, Europe started to set the rules to make all its production green,” he said.
Kurnaz stressed that the deal is not about CO2 emissions, rather it is about greening all production, it is a matter of production in a way that does not harm nature.
Mentioning that this would bring an additional expense for everyone from the farmers there to industries which means that the prices of the goods purchased increase Kurnaz said that at this point, the EU would ask countries to follow the same process that the block does.
“Here the EU says, ‘We comply with the Paris Agreement, We have set and run many rules such as not using pesticides in production, not releasing harmful chemicals to the air. Therefore, I expect all countries that will send me products to follow the same rules. If the production rules are not followed, then you will tariff”, he added.
Although saying that he does not think the deal is enough as part of desired environment-friendly future, Kurnaz noted that the EU has one of the strictest greenhouse gas reduction rules in the world, and it forces all countries that do business with the EU to set rules and this is directly concern Turkey since half of the country’s exports is to the EU.
“Almost all of our production will have to be in line with the standards in the short term set by the EU. This is not just a matter of CO2. We need a change in the decision-making mechanism regarding all systems used in the entire production chain,” he said.
Underlying that there is a “huge revolution” in the world in this regard right now, he stressed that If the US somehow also follows this trend, then all of the world trade will go on this path in the next ten years.
“The European Green Deal is our plan to make the EU’s economy sustainable. According to the EU, we can do this by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities and making the transition just and inclusive for all.
The controversial deal is found not enough and highly criticized by environmental NGOs over not meeting expectations.
Future of Paris Agreement
In response to the question on the future of the Paris Agreement following the Joe Biden administration in the US, Kurnaz stated that there would not be important developments towards preventing climate change with Paris Agreement.
“I think the Paris Agreement is a token agreement to slightly reduce the voices of environmentalists and people making noise about it,” he said.
He added that the only advantage that would come from Biden’s administration is that countries, including Turkey, do not prefer to take part in the deal and say, ‘Even the US is out of the deal’, they cannot say this anymore.
Criticizing the commitments countries have been made towards reducing carbon emissions and the texture of the accord, Kurnaz said there is no logical relationship between what we ultimately want to achieve and what countries say they will do.
“Even if all countries have kept their promises, this agreement is leading us towards 3.5C degrees of warming. So keeping promises is not enough, countries need to improve their commitments a few times more so that this agreement will get somewhere,” noted Kurnaz.
Also, since it is not a binding agreement, therefore, there would not be any sanctions in case the commitments are not fulfilled are serious shortcomings of the Paris Climate Accord, he added.
Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the agreement during his first day in the office and on Feb. 19, the US officially rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, the State Department announced, saying climate change and science can “never” again be “add-ons” in Washington’s foreign policy.
The Paris Agreement, defined as “a bridge between today’s policies and climate-neutrality before the end of the 21st century”, seeks to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping global temperatures from rising above 2C degrees of pre-industrial levels over the next century and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5C degrees if possible.