UN warns Earth ‘firmly on the path to an uninhabitable world’

Temperatures on Earth will soar past a key danger point if greenhouse gas emissions don’t fall faster than countries have committed to, the world’s leading group of climate scientists said on Monday, warning of the consequences of inaction but also offering hopeful signs of progress fixed.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report reveals a “litany of broken climate promises” by governments and companies, accusing them of fueling global warming by sticking to harmful fossil fuels.

“It is an act of shame to catalog the empty promises that have set us firmly on the path to an uninhabitable world,” he said.

Governments agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) this century, ideally no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). But temperatures have already risen by more than 1.1°C (2°F) since pre-industrial times, leading to a measurable increase in disasters such as flash floods, extreme heat, stronger hurricanes and longer-burning wildfires that are putting lives at risk and governments facing hundreds of costs costing billions of dollars.

“Projected global emissions from (national pledges) make limiting global warming to 1.5°C unachievable and making it more difficult to limit warming to 2°C after 2030,” the panel said.

In other words, the report’s co-chair, James Skea of ​​Imperial College London, told The Associated Press: “If we carry on as we have been, we will not even limit warming to 2 degrees, let alone 1.5 degrees.“

Ongoing investment in fossil fuel infrastructure and clearing of large tracts of forest for agriculture is undermining the massive emissions cuts needed to meet the Paris target, the report says.

According to Skea, emissions in 2019 were about 12% higher than in 2010 and 54% higher than in 1990.

The growth rate has slowed from 2.1% per year at the beginning of this century to 1.3% per year between 2010 and 2019, according to the report’s authors. But they expressed “high confidence” that the planet will be an average of 2.4 to 3.5C warmer by the end of the century if countries don’t step up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, experts say security will have a serious impact on much of the world’s population.

“To limit warming to 1.5°C, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak no later than 2025 and be reduced by 43% by 2030,” he said.

Such cuts would be difficult to achieve without drastic, economy-wide measures, the panel acknowledged. It is more likely that the world will surpass 1.5 degrees and then efforts will have to be made to bring temperatures back down, including by removing large amounts of carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas – from the atmosphere.

Many experts say this is not feasible with current technologies, and even if it were possible, it would be far more expensive than preventing emissions in the first place.

The thousands-page report does not blame individual countries.

But the numbers show that much of the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere was released by rich countries that were the first to burn coal, oil and gas when the Industrial Revolution really got going in the 1850s.

The UN panel said about 40% of the emissions have come from Europe and North America since then. East Asia, which includes China, accounts for just over 12%. In the mid-2000s, the country took over from the United States as the world’s largest emitter.

Many countries and companies have used recent climate conferences to paint rosy pictures of their efforts to cut emissions while continuing to invest in fossil fuels and other polluting activities, Guterres warned.

“Some government and business leaders say one thing – but do something else,” he said. “Put simply, they lie. And the results will be catastrophic.”

However, the report is not without hope.

Its authors point out myriad ways the world can be brought back to 2°C or even return to 1.5°C at great expense after crossing that threshold. This could require measures like removing CO2 from the atmosphere by natural or artificial means, but also potentially risky technologies like pumping aerosols into the sky to reflect sunlight.

The recommended solutions include a rapid switch from fossil fuels to renewable energies such as ever-cheaper solar and wind power, electrification of transport, less meat consumption, more efficient use of resources, and massive financial support for poor countries that cannot afford these measures without help.

The situation is as if humanity “went to the doctor in a very unhealthy state” and the doctor says “You have to change, it’s a radical change. If you don’t, you’re in trouble,” said report co-author Pete Smith, Professor of Soils and Global Change at the University of Aberdeen.

“It’s not like dieting,” Smith said. “It’s a fundamental lifestyle change. It changes what you eat, how much you eat and lead a more active lifestyle.”

One step often referred to by scientists as the “low-hanging fruit” is to plug methane leaks from mines, wells and landfills that release the potent but short-lived greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. A pact between the United States and China struck at last year’s UN climate change conference in Glasgow aims to do just that.

“You’re seeing the first signs that people’s actions are starting to make a difference,” said Skea, the panel’s co-chair.

“The big message we have is that human activity got us into this problem and human activity can actually get us out of it,” he said.

The panel’s reports have become increasingly blunt since the first was published in 1990, and the latest may be the last before the planet undergoes 1.5C of warming, Skea told AP.

Last August it said man-made climate change was “an established fact” and warned that some effects of global warming were already inevitable. In late February, the panel released a report outlining how further increases in temperature will multiply the risk of floods, storms, droughts and heat waves around the world.

Still, former UK government chief scientific adviser David King, who was not involved in preparing the report, said there were optimistic assumptions about how much CO2 the world could afford.

The UN panel suggests there is still a “carbon budget” of 500 billion tons (550 billion US tons) that can be emitted before the 1.5C threshold is reached.

“We don’t actually have a carbon budget left to burn,” said King, who now chairs the Climate Crisis Advisory Group.

“It’s exactly the opposite. We’ve already done too much to put greenhouse gases up there,” he said, arguing that the IPCC’s calculation misses new risks and potentially self-reinforcing effects that are already occurring at some points, such as B. The increased heat uptake into the oceans from sea ice loss and the release of methane as the permafrost melts, he said.

Such warnings were echoed by UN chief Guterres, who cited warnings from scientists that the planet is “moving dangerously close to tipping points that could result in cascading and irreversible climate impacts.”

“But governments and companies with high emissions don’t just turn a blind eye; They’re adding fuel to the fire,” he said, calling for an end to further coal, oil and gas exploration, which the report says may have to shut down anyway, resulting in trillions of dollars in losses.

“Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness,” Guterres said.

Vulnerable nations said the report shows big polluters need to step up their efforts.

“We expect the G-20, the world’s largest emitters, to set ambitious targets ahead of COP27 and deliver on those targets – by investing in renewable energy and removing subsidies for coal and fossil fuels,” said Tina Stege, climate ambassador for the Marshall Islands. “It’s long past time to keep the promises we’ve made.” UN warns Earth ‘firmly on the path to an uninhabitable world’

Russell Falcon

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