UN Warns World Is on Course for Catastrophic Warming of 2.7°C
If countries don’t quickly set stronger emissions-reduction targets, the world will warm 2.7°C by 2100, according to the study released Monday before a Glasgow climate summit. The increase will far exceed the goal of keeping warming below 2°C and preferably 1.5°C that was laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement signed by all countries.
Global warming of 2.7°C compared with pre-industrial levels — about 5° Fahrenheit — would represent a disastrous reshaping of the planet. At just 2°C, an extreme heatwave expected only twice a century would occur about 14 times as often, agricultural droughts would happen about 2.4 times as frequently and seas would continue to encroach on coastal cities, according to a UN report published in August. The world has already heated up 1.1°C since industrialization, leading to more extreme weather on every inhabited continent, from wildfires to floods.
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The analysis of national pledges is just one of a spate of reports expected this week to brief diplomats before they meet the Glasgow for the UN talks beginning Oct. 31. There, they they will try to devise a stronger response to climate change. A separate report published Monday showed that rich nations will meet their goal of providing $100 billion in climate finance to poorer countries only by 2023 — three years later than promised. Those funds are seen as crucial to unlocking more green action around the world.
“The COP will be coming with a sense of distrust and tension, especially around finance,” said Maria Laura Rojas Vallejo, executive director of the Colombian nonprofit group Transforma. “The goal has not been achieved, and this is coupled with crises that have been compounding in the global south.”
Under the UN framework set out in the Paris accord, all signatories have to report what they’re doing to reduce emissions by 2030. The report released Monday sums up those reductions and compares the result against the path the world should be on to meet the Paris goals. The projection was unchanged from the UN’s last update in September.
In a separate analysis, the International Energy Agency earlier looked at pledges going out to 2060, including net-zero commitments from most of the world's largest economies. It concluded that delivering on those would put the Earth on track to warm 2.1°C by 2100. That calculation assumes that countries reduce emissions in the short term on their way to longer term ambitions.
Monday’s report shows the gap that needs to be bridged as negotiators sit down to try to hammer out a deal that would put the world back on course. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that they will reach a deal on phasing out the use of coal, though a compromise on the rules for a global carbon market could be within reach.
National climate plans have yet to signal the most fundamental indicator of progress: a decline in the rate of greenhouse-gas emission. Levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere have reached 149%, 262% and 123% of their 1750 levels, according to an update issued Monday by the UN World Meteorological Organization.
The report “contains a stark, scientific message for climate change negotiators,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general. “We are way off track.”
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