In Lithuania, climate change has long seemed like a problem happening elsewhere. But increasingly frequent and intense heatwaves, followed by torrential showers, drives home the point that climate affects everyone.
Climatologist Audronė Galvonaitė says that we are past the point where we can stop global warming; at best, we can slow it down.
“It is a long process and normally you wouldn't be able to observe [climate change] over one lifetime. Now, not only can you see it over a lifetime, you can see it over childhood,” Galvonaitė said on LRT TV's programme Savaitė.
“We must take action, irrespectively of which party you belong to, what your financial capabilities are, we all live under one sky.”
Audronė Galvonaitė is interviewed by Nemira Pumprickaitė.
Arriving at a global climate agreement seems to be a difficult task: we had the Kyoto Protocol, followed by the Paris Accord, but then President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement. Is there any other way for climate action?
What do you think? Unless there is a common agreement, some will be emitting pollution into the atmosphere while others will be trying to stop it.
And I can tell you that if the Chinese release something into the air, we will feel it here within a week; if the Americans pollute, it will be here in perhaps 10 days.
It is funny – or, rather, really angering – that nothing is happening since the signing [of the Paris Accord].
When Lithuania was presiding over the EU Council, I was in Warsaw, the so-called Coreper [Permanent Representatives Committee]. When people debate the place of a comma for three hours without addressing the essence – it is frightening and sickening. They spend 35 hours without sleep and walk away without agreeing on anything.
I was following the Paris Conference and I saw a lot of good will. The presiding Frenchman put his foot down and said – you're not leaving unless you arrive at an agreement.
And they did agree then, Barack Obama himself came. Why did he come? If you look at the US map, it is divided into the western and the eastern part, one is always burning, the other one is drowning or covered in snow, or tormented by hurricanes. California is always on fire as far back as I can remember. I'm following what is happening there and I don't know how people can not understand, it's scary.
What if the world's powerful cannot agree – can the nature somehow deal with it itself?
It cannot anymore. The nature tried to fight us, to maintain a balance in order to prevent catastrophic phenomena that we witness already.
What can we expect in the future, if we don't do anything and temperature continues to rise?
In the beginning, they tried to agree on [capping average global temperature rise to] one degree. They saw it wouldn't work, the one-degree line was crossed. Then they tried to agree on one and a half degrees. Now they're even talking about two degrees.
As I've said, these are irreversible processes and they're accelerating. If we cross, say, four degrees, we will burn the planet. There will be no point in thinking about how we feel – we'll go extinct like dinosaurs. People will run out of water, air will be polluted and unbreathable, diseases will spread and so on. We will destroy ourselves, that's what we'll have achieved.
And what if our leaders do manage to agree quickly and we stop polluting. Will the climate respond immediately or continue to heat up for some time?
There are estimates that, if we stop all CO2 emissions now, it will take another 100 years to return to the initial situation.
But it won't happen, we cannot stop the process [of global warming], we can only slow it down.
You wouldn't believe how happy we were when China, India, the US signed the [Paris] deal, our specialists were jubilant.
But how long can we hesitate? If we don't care about the future of our children and grandchildren, we can continue living as we do now.