Warming slightly less catastrophic – NRC

How much longer will humans let the earth warm up? Not entirely coincidentally, several reports emerged this week with varying forecasts and scenarios. Most were worrisome, but there was also a hint of tentative hope.

The red line: everything necessary has been put in place to slow down climate change, but it is still far from enough to reach the agreements in the Paris climate agreement. The aim is to limit warming to a maximum of 2°C, and aim for 1.5°C – the Earth has already warmed by an average of 1.1°C since the Industrial Revolution.

The timing of all these reports is not coincidental. The 27th United Nations Climate Summit (COP27) will take place from 6 to 18 November in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt. The reports now appearing increase pressure on government leaders to do more.

To reach the 1.5°C target, emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, must be reduced to zero by 2050. A gigantic task. But for now, those emissions are only increasing. This happened again in 2021, the World Meteorological Organization reported on Wednesday. In fact, the concentration of methane in the air increased more than in any other year since measurements began 40 years ago. The reason is not yet clear.

The question is whether there are countries that announce stricter targets at COP27

UNEP, the UN’s environment agency, concluded that “there is no credible path” to meeting the 1.5°C target. In his last Emissions gap report the agency outlines the gap between current climate policies, the targets that countries have set in their ‘national contributions’ (the Nationally determined contributions, NDCs) and the UN targets of 1.5 and 2°C respectively. The outlook has already improved a lot since 2015. Back then there was still catastrophic warming of perhaps 4°C at the end of this century. Politiken has meanwhile reduced this forecast to around 2.8°C. But it is still a sign of much more and more intense heat waves, droughts, showers, floods, human casualties and major economic damage. If, in addition, all current NDCs are converted to policy, that number will drop to 2.4 to 2.6.

Disappointment

UNEP had hoped that countries would announce new NDCs with stricter targets after the summit a year ago in Glasgow. It hardly happened. The disappointment drips from the report.

The same disappointment also arises from the report Status of climate action 2022, compiled by seven organizations including the Climate Action Tracker and the World Resources Institute. That report also maps the gap between the Paris goals and what countries are doing, but broken down into sectors such as power generation, buildings, transport, industry, food and agriculture. No sector is on track. Some sectors are moving in the right direction at a “promising but insufficient” pace – such as green electricity generation and electric car sales. Other sectors are “well below” the required pace, and some sectors are even going in the wrong direction altogether.

Gap ‘required’ and actual emissions


The cautiously positive news came from the International Energy Agency (IEA). Russia’s invasion of Ukraine represents a turning point in the energy market, writes the IEA in its statement World Energy Outlook 2022. Countries that imported Russian oil or gas are accelerating their share of nuclear or wind and solar energy in response to the invasion. The IEA now presents for the first time a scenario based on standing policies, in which global demand for oil, coal and gas peaks and then declines. The use of coal will already decline in the coming years, the use of natural gas will reach its peak at the end of this decade, and the use of petroleum sometime in the mid-1930s, the IEA estimates. However, the agency also concludes that this development is largely insufficient to achieve the Paris goals. This corresponds to a warming of approximately 2.5°C at the end of this century.

The question is whether there are countries that will announce stricter targets at the upcoming climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh. The topic is not high on the agenda for this meeting. However, it will be about financing: how much are the developed countries that have caused the climate problem willing to pay poorer countries to adapt to global warming. The issue arose last October when Pakistan demanded compensation from the West for an estimated $40 billion in damages caused by the floods.

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