With world leaders gathering in Madrid next week for their annual bargainin g session over how to avert a climate catastrophe, the latest assessment is sued by the United Nations said Tuesday that greenhouse gas emissions are s till rising dangerously.
“The summary findings are bleak,” said the annual assessmen t, which is produced by the United Nations Environment Program and is forma lly known as the Emissions Gap Report. Countries have failed to halt the ri se of greenhouse gas emissions despite repeated warnings from scientists, w ith China and the United States, the two biggest polluters, further increas ing their emissions last year.
The result, the authors added, is that “deeper and faster cuts are now required.”
As if to underscore the gap between reality and diplomacy, the internationa l climate negotiations, scheduled to begin next week, are not even designed to ramp up pledges by world leaders to cut their countries’ emissi ons. That deadline is still a year away.
Rather, this year’s meetings are intended to hammer out the last re maining rules on how to implement the 2015 Paris climate accord, in which e very country pledged to rein in greenhouse gases, with each setting its own targets and timetables.
“Madrid is an opportunity to get on course to get the speed and tra jectory right,” said Rachel Kyte, a former United Nations climate d iplomat who is now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. ? ?What the Emissions Gap Report does is take away any remaining plausible deniability that the current trajectory is not good enough.”
The world’s 20 richest countries, responsible for more than three-f ourths of worldwide emissions, must take the biggest, swiftest steps to mov e away from fossil fuels, the report emphasized. The richest country of all , the United States, however, has formally begun to pull out of the Paris a ccord.
Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 1.5 percent every year over t he last decade, according to the annual assessment. The opposite must happe n if the world is to avoid the worst effects of climate change, including m ore intense droughts, stronger storms and widespread hunger by midcentury. To stay within relatively safe limits, emissions must decline sharply, by 7 .6 percent every year, between 2020 and 2030, the report warned.
Separately, the World Meteorological Organization reported on Monday that e missions of three major greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — have all swelled in the atmosphere since the mi d-18th century.
“We are sleepwalking toward a climate catastrophe and need to wake up and take urgent action,” said Alden Meyer, director of policy an d strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, on a phone call with repor ters Tuesday after the publication of the report.
Even if every country fulfills its current pledges under the Paris Agreemen t — and many, including the United States, Brazil and Australia, ar e currently not on track to do so — the Emissions Gap Report found average temperatures are on track to rise by 3.2 degrees Celsius from the b aseline average temperature at the start of the industrial age.
According to scientific models, that kind of temperature rise sharply incre ases the likelihood of extreme weather events, the accelerated melting of g laciers and swelling seas — all endangering the lives of billions o f people. =======The Paris Agreement resolved to hold the increase in global temperatures we ll below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit; last year, a United Nations-backed panel of scientists said the safer limit was to keep it to 1 .5 degrees Celsius.
There are many ways to reduce emissions: quitting the combustion of fossil fuels, especially coal, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel; switching to renewable energy like solar and wind power; moving away from gas- and d iesel-guzzling cars; and halting deforestation.
In fact, many countries are headed in the wrong direction. A separate analy sis made public this month looked at how much coal, oil and natural gas the world’s nations have said they expect to produce and sell through 2030. If all those fossil fuels were ultimately extracted and burned, the r eport found, countries would collectively miss their climate pledges, as we ll as the global 2 degree Celsius target, by an even larger margin than pre viously thought.
A number of countries around the world, including Canada and Norway, have m ade plans to reduce emissions at home while expanding fossil-fuel productio n for sale abroad, that report noted.
“At a global level, it doesn’t add up,” said Michae l Lazarus, a lead author of the report and director of the Stockholm Enviro nment Institute’s United States Center. To date, he noted, discussi ons on whether and how to curb the production of fossil fuels have been alm ost entirely absent from international climate talks.
The International Energy Agency recently singled out the proliferation of s port utility vehicles, noting that the surge of S.U.V.s, which consume more gasoline than conventional cars, could wipe out much of the oil savings fr om a nascent electric-car boom.
“For 10 years, the Emissions Gap Report has been sounding the alarm — and for 10 years, the world has only increased its emissions,? ?? the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, said in a statement. “There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heat waves, storms and pollution.”
The pressure on world leaders to pivot away from fossil fuels and rebuild t he engine of the global economy comes at a time when the appetite for inter national cooperation is extremely low, nationalist sentiments are on the ri se, and several world leaders have deep ties to the industries that are the biggest sources of planet-warming emissions.
If there’s any good news in the report, it’s that the curre nt trajectory is not as dire as it was before countries around the world st arted taking steps to cut their emissions. The 2015 Emissions Gap Report sa id that, without any climate policies at all, the world was likely to face around 4 degrees Celsius of warming.
Coal use is declining sharply, especially in the United States and Western Europe, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief. Renewable energy is expan ding fast, though not nearly as fast as necessary. City and state governmen ts around the world, including in the United States, are rolling out strict er rules on tailpipe pollution from cars.
Young people are protesting by the millions in rich and poor countries alik e. Even in the United States, with its persistent denialist movement, how t o deal with climate change is a resonant issue in the presidential campaign .
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/26/climate/greenhouse-gas-emissions-carbon . html