[Marxism] ‘Bleak’ U.N. Report Finds World Heading to Climate Catastrophes
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Tue Nov 26 11:33:29 MST 2019
NY Times, Nov. 26, 2019
‘Bleak’ U.N. Report Finds World Heading to Climate Catastrophes
By Somini Sengupta
Four years after countries struck a landmark deal in Paris to rein in
greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to avert the worst effects of
global warming, humanity is headed toward those very climate
catastrophes, according to a United Nations report issued Tuesday, with
China and the United States, the two biggest polluters, having expanded
their carbon footprints last year.
“The summary findings are bleak,” the report said, because countries
have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions even after
repeated warnings from scientists. The result, the authors added, is
that “deeper and faster cuts are now required.”
The world’s 20 richest countries, responsible for more than
three-fourths of emissions, must take the biggest, swiftest steps to
move away from fossil fuels, the report emphasized. The richest country
of all, the United States, however, has formally begun to pull out of
the Paris accord altogether.
Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 1.5 percent every year
over the last decade, according to the annual assessment, the Emissions
Gap Report, which is produced by the United Nations Environment Program.
The opposite must happen if the world is to avoid the worst effects of
climate change, including more intense droughts, stronger storms and
widespread food insecurity by midcentury. To stay within relatively safe
limits, emissions must decline sharply, by 7.6 percent every year,
between 2020 and 2030, the report warned.
Separately, the World Meteorological Organization reported on Monday
that emissions of three major greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane
and nitrous oxide — have all swelled in the atmosphere since the
Under the Paris Agreement, reached in November, 2015, every country has
pledged to rein in emissions, with each setting its own targets and
timetables. Even if every country fulfills its current pledges — and
many, including the United States, Brazil and Australia, are currently
not on track to do so — the Emissions Gap Report found average
temperatures are on track to rise by 3.2 degrees Celsius from the
baseline average temperature at the start of the industrial age.
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According to scientific models, that kind of temperature rise sharply
increases the likelihood of extreme weather events, the accelerated
melting of glaciers and swelling seas — all endangering the lives of
billions of people.
The Paris Agreement resolved to hold the increase in global temperatures
well below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit; last year, a
United Nations-backed panel of scientists said the safer limit was to
keep it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
There are many ways to reduce emissions: quitting the combustion of
fossil fuels, especially coal, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel;
switching to renewable energy like solar and wind power; moving away
from gas- and diesel-guzzling cars; and halting deforestation.
In fact, many countries are headed in the wrong direction. A separate
analysis released this month looked at how much coal, oil and natural
gas the world’s nations have said they expect to produce and sell
through 2030. If all those fossil fuels were ultimately extracted and
burned, the report found, countries would collectively miss their
climate pledges, as well as the global 2 degree Celsius target, by an
even larger margin than previously thought.
A number of countries around the world, including Canada and Norway,
have made plans to reduce emissions at home while expanding fossil-fuel
production for sale abroad, that report noted.
“At a global level, it doesn’t add up,” said Michael Lazarus, a lead
author of the report and director of the Stockholm Environment
Institute’s United States Center. To date, he noted, discussions on
whether and how to curb the production of fossil fuels have been almost
entirely absent from international climate talks.
The International Energy Agency recently singled out the proliferation
of sport utility vehicles, noting that the surge of S.U.V.s, which
consume more gasoline than conventional cars, could wipe out much of the
oil savings from a nascent electric-car boom.
Diplomats are scheduled to gather in Madrid in December for the next
round of negotiations over the rules of the Paris Agreement. The world’s
biggest polluters are under pressure to raise their pledges.
“This is a new and stark reminder,” Spain’s minister for ecological
transition, Teresa Ribera, said of the Emissions Gap Report in an email.
“We urgently need to align with the Paris Agreement objectives and
elevate climate ambition.”
If there’s any good news in the report, it’s that the current trajectory
is not as dire as it was before countries around the world started
taking steps to cut their emissions. The 2015 Emissions Gap Report said
that, without any climate policies at all, the world was likely to face
around 4 degrees Celsius of warming.
Coal use is declining sharply, especially in the United States and
Western Europe, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief. Renewable
energy is expanding fast, though not nearly as fast as necessary. And
city and state governments around the world, including in the United
States, are rolling out stricter rules on tailpipe pollution from cars.
Those who have followed the diplomatic negotiations say they are
confronted by something of a cognitive dissonance when they think about
this moment. The world’s biggest polluters are nowhere near where they
should be to draw down their emissions at a time when the human toll of
climate change is near impossible to ignore.
And yet, renewable energy is spreading faster than could have been
anticipated even a few years ago; electric buses and cars are
proliferating and young people are protesting by the millions in rich
and poor countries alike. Even in the United States, with its persistent
denialist movement, how to deal with climate change is a resonant issue
in the presidential campaign.
“There’s a bit of a best of times, worst of times about this,” said
David Waskow, director of the international climate initiative at the
World Resources Institute, a research and advocacy group.
Brad Plumer contributed reporting.
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