Scientists have warned for decades that we were changing the climate in a way that would have devastating impacts on the planet and our lives. A historical report on Monday showed that that is already happening and faster than we expected.
The findings of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) serve as a stark wake-up call for politicians, business leaders and policy makers, who in just 12 weeks will be coming together for the COP26 climate talks. in Glasgow to tackle the greatest existential challenge in human history.
Global politics has lagged behind the science for decades, but leaders and big business are now forced to catch up as constituents and customers battle costly and deadly heat waves, wildfires and floods.
“You have politicians pressed for science, which is confirming a sense of alarm and fear, now you have science on people’s minds,” said Tom Burke, co-founder of E3G, a European climate think tank. “There are capital markets that say this is starting to really threaten the future value of our investments. So huge pressure is building on politicians.”
Amid mounting pressure, climate-minded lawmakers are likely to face obstacles in making the November COP26 conference a success, often measured by how far more conservative leaders are willing to go. Recent multilateral climate meetings between far fewer nations have ended with disappointing, sometimes even divided, results.
Keeping the 1,5s alive
Alok Sharma, chair of COP26, has said that he wants the conference to agree on a number of key targets, including the end date for coal use, a commitment to make all new car sales zero emissions in the next 14 to 19 years, halting deforestation at the end of the decade and further reductions in methane emissions.
But his main message is “keep the 1.5 alive”.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, more than 190 countries signed to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius, but preferably 1.5 degrees, a level beyond which scientists say the world will experience more intense and frequent climatic extremes.
But the meeting of G7 leaders in June and a meeting of G20 ministers last month left some on the world stage disappointed and unsure of what can be accomplished in November.
The G20 communiqué was delivered more than a day later than expected, as some countries objected to language on when to phase out coal and on the 1.5 degree Celsius pledge, according to Roberto Cingolani, Italy’s Minister of Ecological Transition. , who chaired the meeting.
Cingolani told reporters after the conference that India and China were resisting on the coal issue.
A source familiar with the talks at the time told Citizen Free Press that significant resistance came from fossil fuel producing countries, including some developing economies.
At a press conference on Monday, Sharma denied that the 1.5-degree threshold was still divisive, noting the statement that G20 ministers finally agreed to, in which countries said they would “continue their efforts” to limit to 1, 5 above pre-industrial levels.
“Based on all the conversations I have had, I can tell you that there is a clear desire among governments to keep those 1.5 degrees within reach,” Sharma said.
However, China’s top climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, last week accused some countries of trying to change the targets from 2 degrees, which the countries agreed to in the Paris Agreement, to 1.5 degrees.
“Some countries are pushing to rewrite the Paris Agreement,” Xie said, according to the AFP news agency. “That is, they want to strive to change the control target for the temperature rise from 2 degrees Celsius to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
He added: “We have to understand the different situations in different countries and strive for consensus.”
And although the G20 ministers eventually agreed to a language of around 1.5 degrees, some did so reluctantly. India issued its own statement alongside the statement defending the need for growth of developing nations, urging richer countries to reduce their emissions more quickly.
Relegate coal to history
The G7 and G20 often try to show leadership in global policy areas; together, they account for 80% of global emissions and about 85% of the global economy. But the G20 meeting also failed to reach a concrete agreement on the elimination of coal and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies.
Only 13 G20 members have pledged to net zero, Sharma noted Monday, and only eight have come up with new pledges that go further than previous ones. All the signatories to the Paris Agreement were supposed to present a second, more ambitious pledge by July this year.
Sharma said the failure to reach an agreement on coal was “disappointing” and admitted that getting an agreement before the COP26 conference will be difficult. He wants the richest countries in the world to phase out coal by 2030 and the rest of the world by 2040.
Coal will be on the agenda again at the next G20, which occurs just before the COP26 summit.
$ 100 billion a year for the developing world
Another sticking point for developing nations is that they have not received the money they were promised to adapt to climate change.
The developed world in 2009 agreed to transfer $ 100 billion each year to the developing world by 2020. That commitment was reaffirmed in the 2015 Paris Agreement, but the goal was never met. As a result, old divisions and mistrust have resurfaced.
A net-zero economy powered by renewables involves overhauling infrastructure, employing new technologies, transitioning to electric vehicles, and rethinking jobs and entire industries. Developing nations argue that many of the world’s richest countries became rich because they were free to exploit the same fossil fuels that they now want the rest of the world to phase out.
Withholding the promised funds could mean that some countries are less likely to back down on the carbon phase-out and commit to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
What is at stake?
Already at 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the world is heading for average global temperatures 1.5 degrees warmer than scientists thought, according to the IPCC report. That threshold is likely to be crossed in the mid-2030s, even if greenhouse gases are drastically reduced starting today.
The good news is that we can keep it at 1.5 and prevent it from reaching 2 degrees, after which the impacts of climate change will become even more severe, according to the report.
“The key to focus on is that every degree of warming, that every tenth of a degree of warming, matters,” Tamsin Edwards, a climate scientist at King’s College London and one of the authors of the new IPCC report, told Citizen Free Press. “Every year it is increasingly difficult to limit warming to 1.5 degrees because it means that we have to reduce emissions faster to get to zero.”
“Emission reductions have to be immediate, rapid and large-scale,” he added.
If by the 2050s the world reaches net zero, where the net addition and removal of greenhouse gases is zero, it can contain temperature increases to 1.5 degrees.
The other good news is that science shows that climate systems would respond well to carbon removal. Planting more trees, expanding carbon sinks, and possibly using technology that is still being developed will limit warming and its catastrophic consequences.
But a lot has already been lost. Many of the effects of climate change are now “integrated” and impossible to reverse in the short term, such as the ice sheet and the melting of glaciers that will cause sea level rise.
The question now is whether leaders will face the moment and avoid the level of warming that will lead to catastrophe. It is also a question of whether politicians will learn from the mistakes of the past.
“They have been telling us for more than three decades about the dangers of allowing the planet to warm up,” United Nations Environment Program Executive Director Inger Andersen told scientists on Monday after the publication. of the IPCC report.
“The world heard, but did not listen. The world heard, but did not act strongly enough. As a result, climate change is a problem that is here, now. No one is safe and it is getting worse faster.”
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.