How to Avert a Global Climate Catastrophe
Current global efforts to raise awareness and nudge and shame policymakers are necessary but not sufficient to prevent an existential climate crisis. Addressing the problem more effectively requires international governance arrangements that amount to a new social contract on global public goods.
AMMAN – The hottest day on record in Jordan since 1960 was a staggering 49.3° Celsius, (120.7° Fahrenheit) in July 2018, one month after I became prime minister. Jordan is not unique: heat waves have been causing record-high temperatures in countries from Canada to Australia in recent years. The effects of climate change (including increased frequency and severity of floods, hurricanes, and droughts), while felt locally, demand a global response, which should set binding targets that take into account countries’ contributions to the problem and to the solution.
Jordan has been actively pursuing policies and programs to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. Over the past 15 years, Jordan’s annual emissions per capita fell from 3.5 tons to 2.5 tons. But Jordan, like the vast majority of countries, accounts for a negligible share of global CO2 emissions – just 0.04% annually. So even if Jordan was to turn its whole economy green overnight, it would hardly make a dent. This does not absolve us of responsibility, but we cannot overlook the fact that emissions are concentrated: the top 20 emitters account for almost 80% of the annual total, with the United States and China alone accounting for 38%.
In many countries, the ramifications of climate change for water supply have been staggering. In the case of Jordan, it made an already tight constraint much more acute. Rainfall was previously the savior for rural communities that engaged in seasonal rainfed agriculture and herding on semi-arid land. Over the last decade, however, a steady decline in average annual rainfall and an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts have undermined these modes of agriculture, deepening the socioeconomic divide between rural and urban areas.