World leaders should take heed of the catastrophe that is bound to engulf their countries if they continue to defer initiatives to address the climate change issue. Munasinghe, one of the world's leading authorities on sustainable development, energy and environment, said countries, especially the developed ones, have been backsliding in their efforts to address the human-caused global warming issue since the first United Nations conference on environment and development, the Rio Earth Summit, was held in 1992.
Following the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, last year, it has been decided by leaders of countries that a legally binding agreement on climate change (although completed in 2015) can wait until 2020 to take effect. Thus, we are basically entering a period without any legally binding agreement to mitigate global warming. The leaders of the world have not taken climate change seriously. They have essentially put off the decision to take action on climate change for about 10 years. If we defer action until 2020, we will exceed the dangerous limit for temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius. “We have to avoid global warming but looking at the current trend we may hit 3 to 4 degrees Celcius,” said the Sri Lankan physicist, academic and economis, Munasinghe, who shared the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace for work on global warming and sustainable development.
All businesses and civil society to become more proactive and push governments to take action before it is too late. There is already much more forward momentum at the mid level. Mayors of cities, communities and CEOs of companies are willing to take action like reduce energy use while national leaders are unwilling to do it. They have only taken reactive measures and there are no proactive measures. And even these reactive measures are not enough. Scientists have warned that if Earth warms up more than 2 degrees Celsius, it will increase the risk of droughts, destructive storms, floods and rising seas. Rising sea levels are expected to affect 10 per cent of the world's population who live in areas less than 10m above sea level. Some of these changes are already occurring as scientists have noted that over the last 50 years the frequency of heat waves, intense rain and droughts has increased. The changes in weather and ecosystems would primarily affect the poor who do not have the resources to adapt to changes. Climate change is very inequitable because it will affect the poor people not only in the poor countries but also those in the rich countries. If there are rising sea waters, if there are storms and there's failure in agriculture, the poor will not survive and this is very unfair as these problems were caused by the rich (countries and people).
They way forward were for governments to address the climate change issue via an integrated solution. There are multiple issues we are dealing with today; there is the ongoing financial crisis in the Western countries, for decades we have been facing poverty with almost two billion poor people in the world and all kinds of resource shortages from energy, water to food. Climate change is just another issue that will make all other development issues worse. We cannot try to solve climate change knowing that all these other problems are there. The symposium was held to create greater awareness on sustainable development and climate change.