Planned Fossil Fuel Production Would Put Paris Agreement Goals Out of Reach, Report Finds
Planned fossil fuel extraction by 2030 would also double what would be required to limit warming to two degrees celsius. This puts the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to "well below" two degrees far out of range and hampers nations' ability to meaningfully address the climate crisis. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in October 2018 warned that even two degrees of warming would have catastrophic consequences.
"We're in a deep hole – and we need to stop digging," Måns Nilsson, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), which helped produce the report, told The Guardian. "Despite more than two decades of climate policymaking, fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever."
The report looked at the plans of 10 counties, the executive summary explained: seven top fossil fuel producers China, the U.S., Russia, India, Australia, Indonesia and Canada; and three countries that both produce significant amounts of fossil fuels and have made ambitious climate plans — Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom.
The report also found that there is a gap between the nations' stated climate policies and the amount of fossil fuels they plan to produce. The production plans outlined in the report surpass what would be consistent with the countries' Paris agreement commitments. The so-called "production gap" found in the report is therefore greater than the "emissions gap" between the Paris agreement goals and actual national policies.
"The discrepancy between national policies ― the climate change policies and fossil fuel production policies ― highlights there is much more that needs to be done both at country level and international climate negotiations to put a sharpened and increased focus on fossil fuels," UN Environment Programme climate change coordinator Niklas Hagelberg said in a press call reported by HuffPost.
The production gap was especially wide when it came to coal, the report found. Countries plan to produce 150 percent more coal by 2030 than would be consisted with two degrees of warming, and 280 percent more than would be consistent with 1.5 degrees.
Countries are also investing in new oil and gas infrastructure to such a degree that it would "lock in" 43 percent more oil and 47 percent more gas production by 2040 than would be consistent with 2 degrees of warming.
The gap has not been helped by the policies of the Trump administration, which has moved forward with plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement and has supported more fossil fuel production, AFP noted.
The U.S. produced more oil and gas than any other country last year and is the world's No. 2 coal producer, behind China.
The report outlined positive developments in certain countries that could be adopted elsewhere: Belize, Costa Rica, France, Denmark and New Zealand have all implemented partial or total bans on oil and gas extraction, and Germany and Spain are in the process of banning coal extraction. The report also encouraged countries to reform fossil fuel subsidies, implement a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy and be transparent about planned fossil fuel production.
SEI member Cleo Verkuijl recommended to The Guardian a global agreement for ending fossil fuel extraction. While Verkuijl noted such an agreement was unlikely while Trump remains president of the U.S., many of the Democratic primary candidates have called for ending fossil fuel subsidies or limiting extraction on public lands. If such a candidate won in 2020, it would be a "gamechanger," she told The Guardian.
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As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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