There is “no credible pathway” to keep temperature rise below 1.5°C according to the latest UN Emissions Gap 2022 report.
The international community failed to achieve the Paris Goal. In strong terms, it declared, “Only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid climate disaster.”
“This report tells us in cold scientific terms what nature has been telling us, all year, through deadly floods, storms and raging fires: we have to stop filling our atmosphere with greenhouse gases and stop doing it fast,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP (McGrath, 2022).
“We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over. Only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster,” Andersen added (McGrath, 2022).
In 2015, the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands declared that to accept that the world’s temperature will rise beyond 1.5°C would be to sign the “death warrant” of small island developing countries and atoll nations. Countries gathered during that year for COP21 in Paris agreed and signed a commitment to limit warming below 1.5°C to what has become the famous Paris Agreement.
Sadly, signatory countries did not keep their promise, and global emissions continue to rise. Today we are 1.2°C warmer than in the preindustrial period.
According to The Economist Article, “The world is missing its lofty climate targets. Time for some realism”, insisting on admitting that the 1.5°C is a lost cause prolongs the mistakes in Paris, where countries made a “Herculean” goal without any plan for reaching it.
The article lists some realistic things countries can do to deal with the fact that the world is heading beyond 1.5°C.
First, increase investment in renewable energy, particularly in developing counties that are today’s biggest emitters. Developed should help them close their coal plants and build renewable energy infrastructure and capacity.
Second, as it is not realistic that fossil fuels will be abandoned overnight, developing countries should be supported to transition to gas in conjunction with renewable energy, especially in areas that lack access to electricity.
Third, more significant effort needs to be made for climate adaptation. The earth is now experiencing more floods, droughts, wildfires, and storms; preparing for them is a matter of life and death.
A New York Times article, “Beyond Catastrophe A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View“, thoroughly analyzes the world we live in now and where the world is at regarding the achievements and lapses in reducing emissions and transitioning to climate change.
It expressed the reality we will shoot past 1.5°C, and as the UN report states, we will live in a 2 to 3°C world towards the end of the century.
Living in this new environment should not cause despair but hope through climate adaptation and by taking advantage of the many tools and solutions available in a climate-changed world.
Author Wallace-Wells writes, “For decades, visions of possible climate futures have been anchored by, on the one hand, Pollyanna-like faith that normality would endure, and on the other, millenarian intuitions of an ecological end of days…Neither of those futures looks all that likely now, with the most terrifying predictions made improbable by decarbonization and the most hopeful ones practically foreclosed by tragic delay.”
Canadian atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe, a lead chapter author on several National Climate Assessments and an evangelical Christian, says, “The good news is we have implemented policies that are significantly bringing down the projected global average temperature change. The bad news, she says, is that we have been “systematically underestimating the rate and magnitude of extremes.”
So, what does living in the two-degree hotter world look like?
Beyond Catastrophe (2022) states:
- Extreme weather will be even more intense and much more frequent.
- Disruption and upheaval, at some scale, at nearly every level, from the microbial to the geopolitical.
- Suffering and injustice for hundreds of millions of people because the benefits of industrial activity have accumulated in parts of the world that will also be spared the worst consequences.
- Innovation, too, including down paths hard to imagine today, and some new prosperity, if less than would have been expected in the absence of warming.
- Normalization of larger and more costly disasters, and perhaps exhaustion of empathy in the face of devastation in the global south, leading to the kind of sociopathic distance that enables parlour-game conversations like this one.
- In many parts of the world, floods that used to hit once a century would come every year, and those that came once a century would be beyond all historical experience.
- Wildfire risk would grow, and wildfire smoke, too. (The number of people exposed to extreme smoke days in the American West has grown 27-fold in the last decade).
- Extreme heat events could grow more than three times more likely, globally, and the effects would be uneven: In India, by the end of the century, there would be 30 times as many severe heat waves as today, according to one estimate. Ninety-three times as many people would be exposed there to dangerous heat.”
Perhaps it is time for global leaders to plan on climate adaptation at COP27. According to Wallace-Wells, humans have caused “ecological disruption,” and they should also engineer their way out of it.
Most of the world’s infrastructure has been designed for a climate condition that no longer exists. Hence the world should undertake a global construction project to protect us against the new climate conditions, which include “defences against flooding — both natural, like mangrove and wetland restoration, and more interventionist, like dikes and levees and sea walls and sea gates. We’ll need stronger housing codes; more resilient building materials and more weather-conscious urban planning; heat-resistant rail lines and asphalt and all other kinds of infrastructure; better forecasting and more universal warning systems; less wasteful water management, including across very large agricultural regions like the American West; cooling centres and drought-resistant crops and much more effective investments in emergency response for what Juliette Kayyem, a former official at the Department of Homeland Security, calls our new “age of disasters.”Beyond Catastrophe (2022)
Although we are set to exceed 1.5°C, it should not cause us to abandon emissions reduction goals and policies, but we should make it as fast as possible. Every bit of degree of warming shaved off makes a huge difference.
“Overshooting 1.5°C does not doom the planet. But it is a death sentence for some people, ways of life, ecosystems, and even countries. To let the moment pass without some hard thinking about how to set the world on a better trajectory would be to sign yet more death warrants” (The world is missing, 2022).
McGrath, M. (2022, October 27). Climate change: UN warns key warming threshold slipping from sight. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-63407459
The world is missing its lofty climate targets. Time for some realism. (2022 November 3). The Economist. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/leaders/2022/11/03/the-world-is-missing-its-lofty-climate-targets-time-for-some-realism
Beyond Catastrophe A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View. (2022 October 26). The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/10/26/magazine/climate-change-warming-world.html