New climate change fears
Report shows carbon dioxide emissions have reached record levels this year
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.
We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change. Antonio Guterres
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.
— Washington Post