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

Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Supply boats beside Aberdeen Wind Farm on Aug. 4, 2018. Rab / CC BY 2.0

President Donald Trump doesn't like wind turbines.

In April, he claimed they caused cancer, and he sued to stop an offshore wind farm that was scheduled to go up near land he had purchased for a golf course in Aberdeenshire in Scotland. He lost that fight, and now the Trump Organization has agreed to pay the Scottish government $290,000 to cover its legal fees, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Read More Show Less