Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It currently affects every person in every country on every continent. Today, the global average temperature is 1°C higher than in preindustrial times. The past four years were the hottest since temperature record keeping began in 1881, with 2019 the second warmest year ever. What’s more, there has been a sharp increase of 146 percent in CO2 since preindustrial times. That means polar ice caps and glaciers around the world are melting. In the past 25 years, three trillion tons of ice have melted. You can imagine this amount as a convoy of almost 150 tanker trucks fully loaded with ice passing you on a highway every second over a period of 25 years.
Climate change is also causing more frequent landslides, floods, hurricanes, periods of drought and heat, heavy rain and storm surges. These natural disasters destroy houses, crops and more, leaving people without homes and basic foodstuffs. Every year, the impact of climate change forces about 21.5 million people to abandon their homes and flee. That’s equivalent to virtually everyone in Australia emigrating to a new country. And it’s not just humans who suffer as a result of global warming. Animals and plants face habitat loss and even extinction. Increases in natural disasters associated with climate change have caused damage valued at some $2.3 trillion between 1998 and 2017. Over the same period, around 1.3 million people died as a result of climate-related disasters. In defiance of these facts, USD 100 billion more is invested in fossil fuels than in climate change mitigation each year.
Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 35.1 percent between 1990 and 2019. While this sounds good, it falls short of the 40 percent reduction targeted by 2020. For the country’s population as a whole, per capita CO2 emissions are still almost twice as high as the global average. Extreme weather events including heavy rain, floods and heat waves have also tripled in the last 50 years. In Germany, 2018 was the hottest and driest year since temperature record keeping began in 1881. Since then, the temperature in Germany has increased by 1.4°C. Looking ahead, the country can probably expect much less summer rain and mild winters with hardly any snow. German forests and bodies of water are also affected by climate change. Trees do not get enough water, droughts raise the risk of forest fires, and pest populations such as the bark beetles can explode. In the North and Baltic Seas as well as some lakes, algae and bacterial blooms, which may also be toxic, are spreading.
Without appropriate action, the average global temperature on the planet’s surface will increase by more than three degrees Celsius this century. The poorest and most vulnerable will be the hardest hit. In order to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement, which entered into effect in November 2016. Under this agreement, all countries committed to limiting the global temperature increase to well below two degrees Celsius. As of April 2018, 175 parties had ratified the Paris Agreement and ten developing countries had submitted their initial national adaptation plans in response to climate change.