The world’s chances of avoiding the worst ravages of climate collapse are rapidly diminishing as we enter “uncharted territory of destruction” due to our inability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take the necessary actions to avert the catastrophe, they stated leading scientists.
Despite escalating warnings in recent years, governments and businesses haven’t changed fast enough, according to the United in Science report released Tuesday. The consequences are already being seen in increasingly extreme weather conditions around the world and we risk causing “tipping points” in the climate system that will mean faster and in some cases irreversible changes.
The recent floods in Pakistan, which the country’s climate minister claimed to have covered a third of the country with water, are the latest example of extreme weather conditions that are ravaging areas of the globe. The heat wave across Europe, including the UK, this summer, prolonged drought in China, a mega drought in the US and near-famine conditions in parts of Africa also reflect increasingly prevalent extreme weather conditions.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said: “There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels. This year’s United in Science report shows that climate impacts are heading into uncharted territory of destruction. “
The world is likely not to see temperatures above 1.5C above pre-industrial levels within the next five years, according to the report. Governments agreed to focus on keeping temperatures within the 1.5C limit at the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last November, but their promises and actions to reduce emissions fell short. than necessary, the report noted.
After COP26, the invasion of Ukraine and the surge in gas prices prompted some governments to switch back to fossil fuels, including coal. Guterres warned of the danger: “Every year we double this dependence on fossil fuels, even if the symptoms worsen rapidly.”
The world has also failed to adapt to the aftermath of the climate crisis, the report found. Guterres condemned rich countries that had promised assistance to the developing world but did not keep it. “It is a scandal that developed countries have not taken adaptation seriously and have given up their commitments to help the developing world,” he said.
Rich countries are expected to provide $ 40 billion (£ 34.5 billion) a year at a time to help countries adapt, he said, and increase it to $ 300 billion a year by 2030.
The question of adapting to the impacts of extreme weather conditions and the “loss and damage” that vulnerable countries are suffering will likely be one of the key issues of the upcoming COP27 UN climate talks in Egypt in November. Leaders are concerned about the prospects for that conference, as geopolitical upheavals have jeopardized the fragile consensus reached in Glasgow.
Tasneem Essop, executive director of the Climate Action Network, said governments need to prepare for COP27 with action plans that reflect the urgency of the crisis. “The terrifying picture painted by the United in Science report is already a lived reality for millions of people facing recurring climate disasters. The science is clear, but the dependence on fossil fuels by greedy societies and rich countries is causing loss and damage to communities that have done the minimum to cause the current climate crisis. “
He added: “For those who are already experiencing the climate emergency, particularly in the global South, the COP27 conference in Egypt must accept new funding to help them rebuild their lives.”
The United in Science report was coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization and involves the United Nations Environment Program, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the World Climate Research Program, Global Carbon Project, the UK Met Office and the Urban Climate Change Research Network.
Separately, Oxford University researchers said shifting the global economy to a low-carbon basis would save the world at least $ 12 trillion (£ 10.4 billion) by 2050, compared to current levels. of use of fossil fuels. Rising gas prices showed the vulnerability of fossil fuel dependent economies.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Joule, found that moving quickly to renewable energy and other forms of clean energy would benefit the economy as the costs of green technology plummeted.
Rupert Way, postdoctoral researcher at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment in Oxford, co-author of the paper, said: “Past models of high cost transition to zero-carbon energy have discouraged companies from ‘invested and made governments nervous about policies that will accelerate the energy transition and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. But clean energy costs have dropped dramatically over the past decade, much faster than those models predicted “.
The United in Science report found:
The past seven years have been the hottest on record and there is a 48% chance for at least one year in the next five that the annual average temperature will temporarily be 1.5 ° C above the 1850-1900 average.
Global average temperatures are projected to be between 1.1 ° C and 1.7 ° C from pre-industrial levels from 2022 to 2026 and there is a 93% chance that at least one year in the next five will be warmer than hottest year on record, 2016.
The dips in carbon dioxide emissions during the freezes associated with the Covid-19 pandemic were temporary, and carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels returned to pre-pandemic levels last year.
National commitments on greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to keep global warming at 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels.
Climate-related disasters cause economic losses of $ 200 million a day.
Almost half of the planet – 3.3 to 3.6 billion people – live in areas highly vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, but less than half of the countries have early warning systems for extreme weather conditions.
As global warming increases, “turning points” in the climate system cannot be ruled out. These include the drying up of the Amazon rainforest, the melting of the polar ice caps, and the weakening of the reversing circulation of the South Atlantic, known as the Gulf Stream.
By 2050, more than 1.6 billion people living in 97 cities will be regularly exposed to three-month average temperatures reaching at least 35 ° C.