Climate change is more pressing than ever heading into 2020


The Midwest, including Iowa, saw significant flooding this spring. Photo from NOAA

Tyler Chalfant | December 31st, 2019

As the second-hottest year on record rounds out the warmest decade, news and activism on climate change have become more prevalent than ever in 2019. Time magazine named as their Person of the Year climate activist Greta Thunberg, who spoke in Iowa City during her visit to North America. Oxford Languages chose for their Word of the Year “climate emergency,” which the Iowa City City Council also declared, with new goals to reduce emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as recommended by a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And as presidential candidates made numerous visits to the state to win the votes of caucus-goers, many spoke to the urgency of the environmental crisis, with some calling for a “Green New Deal.”

With 14% of voters across the country saying in a recent poll that the climate and environment is their top priority, the issue is likely to play a significant role in the 2020 election. The coming year also marks a “turning point” for several of the goals set in the Paris Climate Agreement, which scientists earlier in 2019 said that we were not on course to meet. With only ten years left to meet the agreement’s goal of cutting carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, the countries who remain a part of the agreement will reconvene for the first time to assess the progress they’ve been able to make and to reevaluate their goals. 

Greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise this year, and are projected to continue rising in 2020, the year may scientists agree emissions need to peak in order to meet the goals set in Paris. Emissions in the U.S. have fallen slightly, but not enough to offset rises in developing countries in Asia. The U.S. remains the largest emitter per capita, and the only country to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. As a result of this move, 2019 was the last time the U.S. will have an official voice in global climate discussions, at least for the near future.

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