Wednesday, December 11, 2019

We are Falling Further Behind on Emissions Reduction

We are falling further behind on emissions reductions and every year that we fail to act compounds the challenges of keeping temperatures within manageable limits. Many nations are not living up to their Paris agreement targets and even if they did we would still be on track to see 3.2 degrees Celsius of warming (5.76 degrees Fahrenheit). Greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 1.5 percent each year in the last decade. A WMO report indicates that CO2 levels are now at the highest point in human history. Annual levels of atmospheric carbon have risen 100 times faster in the past hundred years than at any point in the Earth's natural history. Left unchecked this will augur a catastrophe of epic proportions.

Despite a plethora of studies and reports we are not heeding the warnings. A 2019 report titled "World scientists' warning of a climate emergency" indicated that despite global climate negotiations much of the world continues with business as usual. Our failure to act has prompted a recent study to conclude that national emissions reduction targets will need to be 5 times stronger then they are now to keep temperatures below the upper temperature threshold limit of 1.5 C.

The 2018 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Gap Report clearly stated that countries were falling behind on their emissions reduction commitments. The 2019 UN Gap Report suggests that we are falling even further behind.  The recently released 168 page report was compiled by 57 leading scientists from 33 institutions across 25 countries. The report was published just before the start of COP25 in Madrid.  The UN report indicates that national emissions-reductions goals will need to be five times more ambitious in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.  To stay within this upper temperature threshold we will need to cut emissions 7.6 percent every year between 2020 and 2030. The report found that by 2030, annual emissions will need to be 32 gigatonnes lower to stay within 1.5 C upper threshold limit.
    Gabriel Filippelli, a professor at the Purdue School of Science in Indianapolis, Ind. "We're seriously behind on this," Filippelli said. "It's all doable but … every month that we don't have aggressive action, we fall, frankly, four months behind."

    The 20 members in the G20 produce almost four fifths of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, yet only China, the EU, India, Mexico and Russia are on track to meed their emissions reduction goals. Australia, Brazil, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, are not on track to meed their emissions reductions commitment. At best we have ten years to act, which begs the question what are we waiting for?

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