Quantcast

UN Assessment Confirms World is Standing on the Brink of Climate Catastrophe

Climate

World Wildlife Fund

[Editor's note: You'd think these three reports released this week—World Resources Institute report finding there are 1,199 new coal power plants in the works, totaling more than 1.4 million megawatts of capacity worldwide, World Meteorological Organization report stating that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2011 and the World Bank report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, warning that if the global community fails to act on climate change, it will trigger a cascade of cataclysmic changes that include extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and a sea-level rise affecting hundreds of millions of people—would be enough to move world leaders toward dramatically reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Hopefully headway will be made at the UN climate summit in Doha beginning next week.]

Current Pledges by Governments Indicate a 3-5° C Temperature Rise this Century without Fast Action. Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Christian Kobierski

Governments are falling far short of their commitment to keep global average temperature rise below the accepted 2°C goal, putting the world on the brink of climate catastrophe.

The UN Environment Program’s Emissions Gap Report 2012, released Nov. 21, identifies a huge gap between current pledges to cut polluting greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 and the benchmark of 44 gigatonnes that offers a credible pathway to staying below 2°C.

Last year, UNEP put the gap between pledges and what’s needed at 6-11 gigatonnes—but has now increased this estimate to an alarming 8-13 gigatonnes. In context, annual emissions from the U.S. and China are currently around 7 and 10 to 11 gigatonnes, respectively.

“UNEP’s assessment confirms that the world is standing on the brink,” says Samantha Smith, head of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative.

“On current levels of ambition, we are heading for warming of 4°C this century—a prospect that the World Bank this week described as ‘devastating’. In the face of such sobering assessments by some of the world’s largest institutions, we have to ask – what will it take for our leaders to listen and act?”

There are a range of actions that can be taken immediately to begin to close the gap, including at the UN climate summit in Doha which begins next week:

  • Governments must agree clear processes to increase ambition further before 2020, in the context of a promised new international agreement to be struck in 2015.

  • Governments must agree on robust common accounting rules for greenhouse gas emissions, and also agree to retire the large amounts of surplus “hot air” emission credits currently swilling around in the system.

  • Countries, including European countries, should also move to the top end of their emission pledges for 2020, and come forward with credible plans for meeting or exceeding them.

  • Governments must agree strong reforms to carbon market mechanisms to prevent double counting of offset credits and to rule out offsets that do not need to clear net emission reductions.

“UNEP shows clearly that it is still feasible to get back on track for a safer climate future, but that every year’s delay makes the task harder,” says Smith.

“The solutions are all in our grasp—energy efficiency, clean renewable energy, smarter transport systems, action to protect our forests and a move to more sustainable agriculture. By far the biggest barrier to delivering these is the collective and individual failure of political will. Unless we act urgently, future generations will not forgive us,” she says.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More