New cli­mate change fears

Re­port shows car­bon diox­ide emis­sions have reached record lev­els this year

Bay of Plenty Times - - World -

Global emis­sions of car­bon diox­ide have reached the high­est lev­els on record, sci­en­tists pro­jected yes­ter­day, in the lat­est ev­i­dence of the chasm be­tween in­ter­na­tional goals for com­bat­ing cli­mate change and what coun­tries are ac­tu­ally do­ing.

Be­tween 2014 and 2016, emis­sions re­mained largely flat, lead­ing to hopes that the world was be­gin­ning to turn a cor­ner. But last year, global emis­sions grew 1.6 per cent. The rise this year is pro­jected to be 2.7 per cent.

The ex­pected in­crease, which would bring fos­sil fuel and in­dus­trial emis­sions to a record high of 37.1 bil­lion tonnes of car­bon diox­ide per year, is be­ing driven by nearly 5 per cent emis­sions growth in China and more than 6 per cent in In­dia, re­searchers es­ti­mated, along with growth in many other na­tions through­out the world. Emis­sions by the United States grew 2.5 per cent, while emis­sions by the Euro­pean Union de­clined by just un­der 1 per cent.

As na­tions are gath­ered for cli­mate talks in Poland, the mes­sage of yes­ter­day’s re­port was un­am­bigu­ous: When it comes to prom­ises to be­gin cut­ting the green­house gas emis­sions that fuel cli­mate change, the world re­mains well off tar­get.

“We are in trou­ble. We are in deep trou­ble with cli­mate change,” United Na­tions Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said this week at the open­ing of the 24th an­nual UN cli­mate con­fer­ence, where coun­tries are wrestling with the am­bi­tious goals they need to meet to sharply re­duce car­bon emis­sions in com­ing years.

“It is hard to over­state the ur­gency of our sit­u­a­tion,” he added. “Even as we wit­ness dev­as­tat­ing cli­mate im­pacts caus­ing havoc across the world, we are still not do­ing enough, nor mov­ing fast enough, to pre­vent ir­re­versible and cat­a­strophic cli­mate dis­rup­tion.” Guter­res was not com­ment­ing specif­i­cally on yes­ter­day’s find­ings, which were re­leased in a trio of sci­en­tific pa­pers by re­searchers with the Global Car­bon Project. But his words came amid a litany of grim news in which sci­en­tists have warned that the ef­fects of cli­mate change are no longer dis­tant and hy­po­thet­i­cal, and that the im­pacts of global warm­ing will only in­ten­sify in the ab­sence of ag­gres­sive in­ter­na­tional ac­tion.

In Oc­to­ber, a top UN-backed sci­en­tific panel found that na­tions have barely a decade to take “un­prece­dented” ac­tions and cut their emis­sions in half by 2030 to pre­vent the worst con­se­quences of cli­mate change. The panel’s re­port found “no doc­u­mented his­toric prece­dent” for the rapid changes to the in­fras­truc­ture of so­ci­ety that would be needed to hold warm­ing to just 1.5C above prein­dus­trial lev­els.

Then late last month, the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­leased a nearly 1700-page re­port co-writ­ten by hun­dreds of sci­en­tists find­ing that cli­mate change is al­ready caus­ing in­creas­ing dam­age to the United States. That was soon fol­lowed by an­other re­port de­tail­ing the grow­ing gap be­tween the com­mit­ments made at ear­lier UN con­fer­ences and what is needed to steer the planet off its calami­tous path.

Cou­pled with yes­ter­day’s find­ings, that drum­beat of daunt­ing news has cast a con­sid­er­able pall over the in­ter­na­tional cli­mate talks in Poland, which be­gan this week and are sched­uled to run un­til De­cem­ber 14.

Ne­go­tia­tors there face the dif­fi­cult task of com­ing to terms with the gap be­tween the prom­ises they made in Paris in 2015 and what’s needed to con­trol dan­ger­ous lev­els of warm­ing. Sci­en­tists have said that an­nual car­bon diox­ide emis­sions need to plunge al­most by half by the year 2030 if the world wants to hit the most strin­gent — and safest — cli­mate change tar­get.

We are in trou­ble. We are in deep trou­ble with cli­mate change. An­to­nio Guter­res

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