We can’t stop global heating now but we can prevent the really worst outcomes if we act fast and make really significant cuts to our use of fossil fuels.
The UN Environment Programme has just produced an Emissions Gap Report. https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/emissions-gap-report-2019
Emissions did fall 7% in 2020 due to COVID lockdowns, but scientists agree that we are still on course for 3.2°C of warming and to prevent 1.5°C of temperature rise by 2100, we need this scale of emissions cuts every year.
They found that our total emissions will have to stay below 25 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2030. At the moment the world is projected to emit 54 to 56 gigatons.by then.
So the UNEP report finds that, by 2030, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to fall by 23% from 2019 levels to put the world on track to “likely” (66% chance) avoid 2C warming above pre-industrial temperatures, by 33% to likely avoid 1.8C warming, and by 56% to likely avoid 1.5C warming.
Today, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% every year. This is equivalent to the sort of cuts we saw in 2020.
Every day we delay, the steeper and more difficult the cuts become. By just 2025 the cut needed would will be 15.5% each year, making the 1.5°C target almost impossible. What’s more, delayed action means the eventual price tags for sea defences; food security; infrastructure adaptation and disaster relief keep rising.
There’s a good video on this site which explains just how bad a temperature rise of 1.5°C would be. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24021772
A 2° rise would be far worse:
- At 1.5°C, over 70% of coral reefs will die, but at 2°C virtually all reefs will be lost.
- Insects, vital for pollination of crops and plants, are likely to lose half their habitat at 1.5°C but this becomes almost twice as likely at 2°C.
- The Arctic Ocean being completely bare of sea ice in summer would be a once per century likelihood at 1.5°C but this leaps to a once a decade likelihood at 2°C.
- Over 6 million people currently live in coastal areas vulnerable to sea level rise at 1.5°C degrees, and at 2°C this would affect 10 million more people by the end of this century.
- Sea-level rise will be 100 centimetres higher at 2°C than at 1.5°C.
The Emissions Gap Report 2020 shows that we are on the brink of missing the 1.5°C target and condemning humanity to a future of serious climate change impacts. If we rely only on the current climate commitments of the Paris Agreement, temperatures can be expected to rise to 3.2°C this century. Temperatures have already increased 1.1°C, leaving families, homes and communities devastated.
Today, even the most ambitious national climate action plans are far short of a 7.6% reduction.
This is why commitments made now, in the lead up to the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow next November are absolutely crucial.