Several New Reports Warn that Climate Commitments Won't Cut It
A new UN report warns that the commitments each country has made to emissions reduction are not drastic enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change. The report argues the planet is currently on track to warm an alarming 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.
The report emphasizes that although many countries have ramped up commitments slightly within the past year, we are blowing past targets to limit global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the goal set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. The window to achieve the target is closing. Preventing impending “irreversible climate breakdown” will require a “rapid transformation of societies,” states a new UN Emissions Gap report.
UN: António Guterres | Emissions Gap Report 2022 Message, October 27, 2022.
DW: Climate crisis | Widening emissions gap threatens meltdown, October 27, 2022.
BBC: Past seven years hottest on record, EU satellite data shows, January 10, 2022.
BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely’ due to climate change, May 18, 2022.
Why This Matters
As the world faces record high atmospheric levels of all three greenhouse gases -- methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide -- according to the World Meteorological Organization, the crisis is more urgent than ever. At the same time, oil companies are reporting record profits, while countries and corporations across the globe are backpedaling on plans to cut fossil fuels. The EU, for instance, has neglected to pass policy regulating livestock emissions, jeopardizing the bloc’s goal to cut methane emissions 30% by 2030.
This comes as methane emissions increase faster than ever before, making atmospheric methane levels 262% higher than they were prior to the industrial revolution. Now, methane clouds can be seen even from space.
UN: WMO | Greenhouse Gas Bulletin | "We have again broken new records," October 26, 2022.
KCRA: NOAA | Record increases in atmospheric methane may be evidence of a climate-related feedback loop, April 11, 2022.
Not every leader, though, has been quick to roll back their climate commitments. In Colombia, President Gustavo Petro said he will no longer issue permits for oil exploration, even as European countries like Norway expand their search. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has just released its World Energy Outlook 2022 report and in its finding states that fossil fuel emissions may peak in 2025 in a “historic turning point” due to increased government spending on clean energy in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The IEA has said that if Glasgow commitments are kept, warming would be held to 1.8 degrees.
The report comes at a critical time. On November 7th, global leaders will meet at COP27 in Egypt to discuss the most pressing climate issues including emissions reductions, the global energy crisis, and “loss and damage” financing.
PBS: What Will Earth Look Like When These 6 Tipping Points Hit?, September 6, 2022.
Euronews: Loss and damage | How climate reparations are pitting the North against the South, June 1, 2022.
The Newsmakers: Are rich nations responsible for Pakistan’s Floods?, September 5, 2022.
An Uncertain Future
Feedback loops, like Arctic ice melt, make it difficult for scientists to know just how much the earth will warm and how fast. As permafrost in the arctic melts, 550 gigatons of carbon could be released from the ice, and contribute to quick, unpredictable temperature rise around the world. But by looking to the past, scientists are able to make increasingly comprehensive predictions about the future. A study published earlier this month in PNAS examined CO2-driven planetary warming during the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) era 56 million years ago, and found that climate sensitivity was much higher then than it is now. This means that climate sensitivity -- or, in other words, planetary warming -- may increase as we continue to emit greenhouse gasses.
CBS: The Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than rest of the planet, new research shows, August 12, 2022.
The Agenda with Steve Paikin: The Agenda with Steve Paikin
A Sleeping Giant | Why Permafrost is a Climate Threat, January 17, 2022.
PBS: Melting of the Thwaites Glacier could rewrite the global coastline, December 15, 2021.
BBC: Reverse climate change or “we are doomed” warns United Nations, October 26, 2022.
WRI: Key to COP27 Success | Loss and Damage, October 13, 2022.