Climate change headlines are rarely positive, but even against that yardstick, the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) latest global warming predictions unveiled in mid-May marked a poignant moment for human civilisation.
In the next five years, the WMO warned, the world is likely to see an increase of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming over average pre-industrial levels for the first time.
While the weather events forecast by the United Nations’s weather body capture outlier spikes in temperatures, they serve as ominous portents of just how hard it will be for the world to achieve its hope of limiting the average temperature increase to 1.5C by 2100.
Yet, the warning signs have been around for a while and have been mounting.
Barbeques are no longer the only smoky markers of the start of summer. Devastating wildfires, like the ones that ravaged Canada earlier this month, signal the onset of rising temperatures with deadly regularity. Meanwhile, cyclones like Biparjoy, which slammed into western India in mid-June, are wreaking havoc with increasing frequency.
Eight years after global leaders gathered in a northeastern Paris suburb to seal the landmark 2015 climate agreement, no country is meeting the emissions cut goals needed to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C, according to the independent research platform Climate Action Tracker.
So is it all a lost cause? Or is there still hope? Are there any countries that are doing better than the rest in trying to mitigate the worst effects of climate change for future generations? And if so, what are they doing right?
The short answer: Most developed countries are falling far behind their climate pledges. But some developing nations – such as The Gambia, Costa Rica, Morocco and Mali – are taking bold steps to fight a crisis that, though not of their making, often hits them the hardest.
They are harnessing the power of the sun and innovating with agriculture in ways that serve as examples for others. But their journeys also reveal the limitations of how far they can wage this battle alone, without the Global North stepping up.