Tick­ing cli­mate bomb

Sci­en­tists warn of ‘gi­ant leap backward’ at UN global warm­ing talks

Global Times - - World -

Car­bon diox­ide emis­sions are set to rise this year af­ter a three-year pause, sci­en­tists said at UN cli­mate talks Mon­day, warn­ing that “time is run­ning out,” de­spite White House of­fi­cials us­ing the oc­ca­sion to cham­pion the fos­sil fu­els that drive global warm­ing.

CO2 emis­sions, flat since 2014, were fore­cast to rise two per­cent in 2017, dash­ing hopes they had peaked, sci­en­tists re­ported at 12-day ne­go­ti­a­tions held in the Ger­man city of Bonn, which end Fri­day.

“The news that emis­sions are ris­ing af­ter a three-year hia­tus is a gi­ant leap backward for hu­mankind,” said Amy Luers, a cli­mate pol­icy ad­vi­sor to former US pres­i­dent Barack Obama and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Fu­ture Earth, which co-spon­sored the re­search.

Global CO2 emis­sions for 2017 were es­ti­mated at a record 41 bil­lion tons.

“Time is run­ning out on our abil­ity to keep warm­ing be­low two de­grees Cel­sius (3.6 de­grees Fahren­heit), let alone 1.5 C,” said lead au­thor Corinne Le Quere, di­rec­tor of the Tyn­dall Cen­tre for Cli­mate Change Re­search at the Univer­sity of East Anglia in Nor­wich, Eng­land.

The 196-na­tion Paris Agree­ment, adopted in 2015, calls for cap­ping global warm­ing at 2 C be­low prein­dus­trial lev­els.

With the planet out of kil­ter af­ter only one de­gree of warm­ing – enough to am­plify deadly heat­waves, droughts, and su­per­storms – the treaty also vows to ex­plore the fea­si­bil­ity of hold­ing the line at 1.5 C.

“As each year ticks by, the chances of avoid­ing 2 C of warm­ing con­tinue to di­min­ish,” said co-au­thor Glen Peters, re­search di­rec­tor at the Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional Cli­mate Re­search in Oslo, Nor­way.

“Given that 2 C is extremely un­likely based on current progress, then 1.5 C is a dis­tant dream,” he told AFP.

The study iden­ti­fied China as the sin­gle largest cause of resur­gent fos­sil fuel emis­sions in 2017, with the coun­try’s coal, oil and nat­u­ral gas use up three, five and 12 per­cent, re­spec­tively.

Earth is over­heat­ing due to the burn­ing of oil, gas and es­pe­cially coal to power the global econ­omy.

‘You’re liars!’

That did not dis­cour­age US of­fi­cials from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion from mak­ing a case at the UN ne­go­ti­a­tions for “The Role of Cleaner and More Ef­fi­cient Fos­sil Fu­els and Nu­clear Power in Cli­mate Mit­i­ga­tion.”

“With­out a ques­tion, fos­sil fu­els will con­tinue to be used,” Ge­orge David Banks, a spe­cial en­ergy and en­vi­ron­ment as­sis­tant to the US pres­i­dent told a stand­ing-room-only au­di­ence, cit­ing pro­jec­tions from the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency (IEA).

Faced with this re­al­ity, “we would ar­gue that it’s in the global in­ter­est to make sure that when fos­sil fu­els are used, it’s as clean and ef­fi­cient as pos­si­ble.”

Flanked by Fran­cis Brooke from the of­fice of Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, and se­nior rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Amer­i­can en­ergy com­pa­nies, Banks ad­dressed a packed room where pro­test­ers shouted “you’re liars!” and “there’s no clean coal!”

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, UN spe­cial en­voy for cities and cli­mate change, tweeted: “Pro­mot­ing coal at a cli­mate sum­mit is like pro­mot­ing to­bacco at a can­cer sum­mit.”

The US is the only coun­try in the world that has with­drawn it­self from the Paris Agree­ment.

More than 15,000 sci­en­tists mean­while have warned that car­bon emis­sions, hu­man population growth and con­sump­tion-driven life­styles were poi­son­ing the planet and de­plet­ing its re­sources.

“We are jeop­ar­diz­ing our fu­ture,” they wrote in a com­ment en­ti­tled “World Sci­en­tists’ Warn­ing to Hu­man­ity: A Sec­ond No­tice,” echo­ing a sim­i­lar open let­ter from 1992.

It is “es­pe­cially trou­bling” that the world con­tin­ues on a path to­ward “po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic cli­mate change due to ris­ing green­house gases from burn­ing fos­sil fu­els,” they said.

Rain­for­est into sa­vanna

“We have un­leashed a mass ex­tinc­tion event, the sixth in roughly 540 mil­lion years.”

An­other group of sci­en­tists cau­tioned that ris­ing global tem­per­a­tures were bring­ing Earth ever closer to dan­ger­ous thresh­olds that could ac­cel­er­ate global warm­ing be­yond our ca­pac­ity to rein it in.

“In the last two years, ev­i­dence has ac­cu­mu­lated that we are now on a col­li­sion course with tip­ping points in the Earth sys­tem,” said Jo­han Rock­strom, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Stock­holm Re­silience Cen­tre.

Some sci­en­tists, for ex­am­ple, have con­cluded that the planet’s sur­face has al­ready warmed enough – 1.1 C (2.0 F) on av­er­age – in the last 150 years to lock in the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the West Antarc­tic ice sheet, which holds enough ice to lift global oceans by six or seven me­ters if melted en­tirely. It may take 1,000 years, but – if they are right – the ice sheet will melt no mat­ter how quickly hu­man­ity draws down the green­house gases that con­tinue to drive global warm­ing. Rock­strom and col­leagues have iden­ti­fied a dozen such nat­u­ral pro­cesses that could tip into abrupt and ir­re­versible change. An in­crease of 1-3 C, for ex­am­ple, would likely pro­voke the loss of Arc­tic summer sea ice, warm-wa­ter co­ral reefs and moun­tain glaciers. A de­gree or two more would see large swathes of the Ama­zon rain­for­est turn into sa­vanna and slow a deepsea current that reg­u­lates weather on both sides of the north­ern At­lantic. The In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture (IUCN), mean­while, re­leased a re­port Mon­day show­ing that cli­mate change now im­per­ils one in four nat­u­ral World Her­itage sites, in­clud­ing co­ral reefs, glaciers and wet­lands – nearly dou­ble the number from just three years ago.

Pho­tos: VCG

Groups of ac­tivists protest against the use of fos­sil fu­els on Thurs­day out­side the venue of the 23rd Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties (COP23) of the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (UN­FCCC). In­set: Elec­tric bikes to be used for free by ac­cred­ited peo­ple at the UN­FCCC COP23

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