Dr Karl explains COP26 and why it is such a big deal

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To help understand what COP26 is and why it's important, Yahoo News Australia spoke with science guru Dr Karl Kruszelnicki from the University of Sydney.

What is COP26?

COP26 is the latest in a string of annual United Nations global climate change talks that date back almost 30 years, and Dr Karl explains the reason for holding them is simple.

“Firstly we’ve known that climate change was real since the mid 70s, secondly we have to do something about it, and thirdly it is all of the countries in the world coming together to say this is real,” he told Yahoo News.

Tackling climate change, he believes is important not only for us, but for future generations. 

Dr Karl explains why COP26 is important. Source: Yahoo / Getty
Dr Karl explains why COP26 is important. Source: Yahoo / Getty

Who’s going to COP26 and when is it?

Where: Glasgow, Scotland, from Sunday October 31 until Friday November 12. 

Attending: Over 100 world leaders are expected to attend including US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Declined: Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Why is COP26 important?

In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a groundbreaking report which the UN Secretary General said was "code red for humanity". 

Sea level rises, and more intense droughts, heatwaves, fires and floods were just some of the extreme weather changes the report’s authors have predicted.

Does Dr Karl think COP26 can be successful?

When assessing the future, Dr Karl looks to the past and notes we've had "great success before". 

“Back in 1985, scientists went to the world governments and said hey, there’s a thing in the atmosphere called the ozone layer, and it protects us from ultra-violet light… and by the way it’s being destroyed by a chemical called a CFC: Do something about it," he said.

“Within two years the governments of the world got together and banned CFCs.”

What action are leaders being asked to take?

To limit global heating to less than 2 degrees, or preferably 1.5 degrees, countries will be urged to:

  • Cut their emissions

  • Stop using coal

  • Slow down deforestation

  • Switch to electric vehicles

  • Invest in renewable energy

Is Australia's attendance important?

Australia has long considered itself a “small player” when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, however Dr Karl points out the country has previously been keen to play a role in global politics.

“If Australia is such a small player why did we bother going into the First World War to help the Allied countries, the Second World War etc?” he said.

More importantly, when it comes to our impact on climate change, Australia is not actually a “small player”.

Australia remains a major exporter of fossil fuels. Source: Getty
Australia remains a major exporter of fossil fuels. Source: Getty

He calculates Australia only follows China, United States, European Union and India once exports are included, making us the fifth biggest emitter of fossil fuels. 

“You might say, we didn’t burn it, we just exported the coal," he said. 

“Right so, I just get a whole loot of methamphetamine and leave it outside the local primary school and it’s not my fault if the kids take it?

“Come on, give me a break.”

Dr Karl and sustainability experts recently spoke at Randwick Council's Eco Living Festival, some of the presentations can be viewed here.

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