Ensure climate change pact translates into action

Kudos to the nearly 200 countries that agreed to the Paris climate change deal, and for probably saving the earth from impending disaster ("Historic deal may signal end of fossil fuel era"; yesterday).

Scientists now have the onerous task of finding solutions to the global warming that is already causing droughts, floods, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

There is also the small matter of getting all those who have signed the pact to meet their commitments, as the damage from years of inaction is already plain to see.

There has to be a significant shift away from oil, gas and coal, for a start, and the nations of the world have decided to move away from these fossil fuels and turn to renewables instead.

This will be easier said than done.

Nonetheless, it piles more misery on an already beleaguered oil industry. Faced with an oversupply situation that is set to worsen, less use of oil only threatens to complicate matters even further.

Will the industry ever recover? Or is this the end?

There is a need to move towards greater efficiency and better practices all round, and the climate change deal provides the opportunity for this to happen.

Already, advances being made in automotive technology - especially with regard to the internal combustion engine - is ensuring that this is the case.

And there is the increasing use of alternatives that are fast becoming more readily available, from electric and hybrid cars to vehicles powered by natural gas or hydrogen fuel cells.

Oil's role is set to further diminish in importance, as the probability of gas replacing it in ships, power stations, petrochemical plants and domestic and industrial heating systems continues to gather pace.

The landmark agreement involving so many countries could hasten these changes even further, as governments apply more pressure in view of the urgency of the pact, with immediate effect. If this is the price to be paid, with the oil industry taking a hit, then so be it, for the future of mankind comes first.

The climate change pact is there to ensure that generations to come will not be faced with a catastrophe in the making.

Already, this is the hottest year on record, with extremes of weather and temperatures already afflicting so many millions, and it is likely to get worse before it becomes better.

The question is, can the collective find the resolve to make it work, and halt possibly cataclysmic consequences?

We cannot afford to wait to find out. We have to act now and hope for the best.

Manoraj Rajathurai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2015, with the headline 'Ensure climate change pact translates into action'. Print Edition | Subscribe