Climate change 2021: There is no turning back now

Over a fourth century of UN climate conferences tasked with rescuing humanity from itself, one was considered a chaotic failure (Copenhagen / 2009), another a resounding success (Paris / 2015), and the rest came somewhere in between telâne.

This year’s COP26 inspired all these reactions at once.

But dedicated experts in the negotiating arena welcomed solid – even historic – progress in reversing the existential threat of global warming.

“The Glasgow Climate Pact is more than we expected, but less than we hoped for,” said Dann Mitchell, head of climate change at the Met Office in Britain, with haiku-like economies.

Compared to what came before, the first call ever by 196 countries is to reduce coal-fired power, as a promise to double financial aid each year – up to about $ 40 billion – so that poor people can listen to climate impacts , are giant step forward.

But all of these hard-won gains at COP26 shrink in significance as they are piled against hard science.

An unbroken cascade in 2021 of deadly floods, heat waves and wildfires across four continents, combined with increasingly detailed projections, left no doubt that exceeding the warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) was predicted in ‘ the Paris Agreement would push the earth. red zone.

“But the atmosphere responds to outbursts – not COP decisions – and a lot of work remains to be done to translate the strong rhetoric here into reality.”

It found that global warming is practically certain to continue at 1.5C, probably within a decade. Meanwhile, ocean levels are rising faster than expected, and will continue to do so for centuries.

Then there is the threat of “tipping points” that could see permafrost release enormous amounts of CO2 and methane, transform the Amazon Basin into savannah, and ice sheets that shed enough mass to submerge cities and deltas at home for hundreds of millions.

“But Glasgow has at least made an exit beach.”

Part 2 of the IPCC report on climate change, seen exclusively by AFP prior to its February 2022 publication, reveals another gaping gap between the COP26 baby steps and what is needed in the long run.

“Adjustment costs are significantly higher than previously estimated, resulting in a growing ‘adaptation finance gap,'” said an executive summary of the 4,000-page report.

Glasgow marked the transition from the implementation of the rules of the Treaty of Paris of 2015 to the implementation of its provisions.

How that saga discovers him will largely depend on the four major emitters of the world, collectively responsible for 60 percent of global carbon pollution.

But they refused to set up a fund that was asked by more than 130 developing countries to help pay for climate damage already done.

China and India – accounting for 38 percent of global emissions by 2021, and increasing – are resisting pressure to give up fossil fuels.

However, if climate policy continues to be destroyed, global capital is already flowing into what some have called the most massive economic transformation in human history.

“If we had to transform just one sector, or move one country of fossil fuels, we would have done so long ago,” commented Christiana Figueres, who chaired the UN climate convention when the Paris deal was concluded.

Where some of that money could flow – and who might be left out – has also come into focus, with major investment deals announced for South Africa, and others in the pipeline for emerging economies such as Indonesia and Vietnam.

“We can not just wait for open market incentives to make sense, we need to set carbon prices worldwide, we need to set science-based goals that become climate laws,” said Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Originally published as Climate Change 2021: There is no turning back now


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