Leading scientists have said the world’s chances of avoiding the worst damage from climate breakdown are rapidly dwindling, as we enter an “uncharted territory of devastation” by failing to cut greenhouse gas emissions and take action to stave off catastrophe.
Despite intense warnings in recent years, governments and companies haven’t changed fast enough, according to a United in Science report published Tuesday. The consequences are already showing in increasingly severe weather around the world, and we are in danger of provoking Tipping points in the climate system This means faster and in some cases irreversible transitions.
The recent floods in Pakistan, which the country’s climate minister claimed covered a third of the country with water, are the latest example of severe weather ravaging vast swathes of the world. Heat wave across Europe including the UK this summer, prolonged drought in China, mega drought in the US and near-famine conditions in parts of Africa also reflect increasingly prevalent weather variability.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity’s addiction to fossil fuels. This year’s United in Science report shows that climate impacts are moving into an uncharted territory of devastation.”
The report found that the world is likely not to see temperatures of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, over the next five years. Governments agreed to focus on keeping temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius at the UN climate summit Cop26 held in Glasgow last November, but their pledges and actions to cut emissions fell short of what was needed, according to the report.
Since COP26, the invasion of Ukraine and rising gas prices have prompted some governments to return to fossil fuels, including coal. Guterres warned of the danger: “Every year we double our addiction to fossil fuels, even as symptoms worsen rapidly.”
The report found that the world was also failing to adapt to the consequences of the climate crisis. Guterres condemned the rich countries that promised developing countries aid but failed to deliver. “It is a scandal that developed countries have failed to take adaptation seriously, and have ignored their obligations to help the developing world,” he said.
Rich countries should provide $40 billion (£34.5 billion) a year once to help countries adapt, he said, and increase that to $300 billion a year by 2030.
Adaptation to the effects of extreme weather, and the “losses and damages” suffered by vulnerable countries, is likely to be one of the main issues at the upcoming UN COP27 climate talks in Egypt in November. Leading personalities are concerned about the prospects for that conference, as geopolitical turmoil jeopardized the fragile consensus that had been reached in Glasgow.
Tasnim Esop, executive director of the Climate Action Network, said governments should prepare for Cop27 with action plans that reflect the urgency of the crisis. “The horrifying picture painted by the United in Science report is already a living reality for millions of people who face frequent climate catastrophes. The science is clear, yet the addiction of greedy corporations and rich nations to fossil fuels is taking a toll on societies that have done little to cause the current climate crisis. “.
“For those already experiencing the climate emergency, particularly in the Global South, Cop27 in Egypt must approve new funding to help them rebuild their lives,” she added.
The United in Science report was coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization and includes the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the World Climate Research Programme, the Global Carbon Project, the UK Met Office and the Urban Climate Change Research Network. .
Separately, researchers from Oxford University said shifting the global economy to a low-carbon base would save the world at least $12 trillion (£10.4 billion) by 2050, compared to current levels of fossil fuel use. Rising gas prices showed the weakening of economies dependent on fossil fuels.
The study, published in the journal Goal on Tuesday, found that a rapid transition to renewable energy and other forms of clean energy would benefit the economy, as the costs of green technology have fallen.
Robert Way, a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford University’s Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment and co-author of the paper, said: “Previous models that have predicted high costs for the transition to carbon-neutral energy have deterred companies from investing and made governments nervous about making policies that would accelerate Energy transition and reduced dependence on fossil fuels. But clean energy costs have fallen sharply over the past decade, much faster than those models predicted.”
A United in Science report found:
The past seven years have been the hottest on record, and there is a 48% chance in at least one year in the next five years that the annual average temperature will be temporarily 1.5°C higher than the 1850-1900 average.
Global average temperatures are projected to be between 1.1°C and 1.7°C above pre-industrial levels from 2022 to 2026, and there is a 93% chance that at least one year in the next five will be warmer than the hottest year At all, 2016.
Reduction in carbon dioxide emissions During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns were temporary, and carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels returned to pre-pandemic levels last year.
National pledges on greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to bring global heating to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Climate-related disasters cause economic losses of $200 million per day.
Nearly half of the planet – 3.3 to 3.6 billion people – live in areas highly vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis, but less than half of countries have early severe weather warning systems.
With the increase of global warming, Tipping points in the climate system It cannot be ruled out. These factors include the drying up of the Amazon rainforest, the melting of ice caps, and the weakening of the volatile Atlantic Ocean circulation, known as the Gulf Stream.
By the 1950s, more than 1.6 billion people living in 97 cities will be regularly exposed to three-month average temperatures of at least 35°C.
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