'Doing your bit' for the environment is no longer enough
Global warming has been going on since the 1860s, but it is only in recent years that most of us have become aware of the issue.
We have become aware because the rate of warming is accelerating to the extent that climate is now being affected negatively worldwide as evidenced by life-threatening wind events, fires and floods.
In May of this year, Dáil Éireann declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. In September, David Attenborough, that outstanding presenter of nature documentaries on television, called climate change "our greatest threat in thousands of years" and highlighted the need to tackle climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses we are releasing into the atmosphere.
A small change in global temperature makes a huge difference to global climate: the world's average temperature is now only about 1°C above pre-industrial levels but the impact it is having is profound.
In 2015, representatives of 196 states gave their support to 'The Paris Agreement', the world's first universal and legally binding agreement on climate change. The agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016 with a long-term target to keep the world's average temperature to well below 2°C, preferably around 1.5°C by the end of the 21st century.
However, very recent reports from the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations show that global carbon dioxide emissions have risen for the first time in four years and warned that the goals set in the Paris Agreement are getting harder and harder to achieve.
If present trends persist, commentators speculate that the target to keep the world's average temperature to well below 2°C, preferably around 1.5°C by the end of the 21st century, will not be achieved and that the predicted outcome is more likely to be 3.2°C, possibly up to 4°C.
The challenges that lie ahead to address the climate and biodiversity emergency are very significant and time is not on our side. We all need to seriously up our game to slow the rate of global warming. 'Doing your bit for the environment' will not be enough. Major changes in national policies causing huge cultural changes in society are required.
Other peoples, notably the Scandinavians, are continuing to make very significant progress in living more sustainably and tackling the climate crisis. It is high time for us to adopt best practice being followed by the front runners, to start catching up and to contribute our fair share.