'Up Our Ambition, or Suffer the Consequences': UN Report Urges Immediate Climate Action
The United Nations (UN) Environment program has released its eighth annual Emissions Gap Report, which ominously found that greenhouse gas emissions are set to overshoot the Paris climate deal by about 30 percent.
The goal of the Paris agreement is to keep global temperature rise this century to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with each nation making individual efforts to mitigate global warming. But according to the new review, released ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, national pledges made so far cover only a third of the cuts needed by 2030 to avoid worst impacts of climate change.
Annual emissions are likely to hit 53.0-55.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which greatly exceeds the 42 billion ton threshold for avoiding the two degree temperature rise.
Notably, even if the pledges are fully implemented, it is "very likely" global average temperature increase will be at least three degrees Celsius by 2100.
"Should the United States follow through with its stated intention to leave the Paris Agreement in 2020, the picture could become even bleaker," the UN report pointed out, referring to President Donald Trump's controversial withdrawal from the Paris agreement. The U.S. is one of the world's largest single emitters of greenhouse gases.
“One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, in a statement about the report.
“This is unacceptable. If we invest in the right technologies, ensuring that the private sector is involved, we can still meet the promise we made to our children to protect their future. But we have to get on the case now."
Meanwhile, the UN report says that China, the European Union, India and Japan are on track to meet their 2020 pledges.
The UN report was released a day after the World Meteorological Organization warned in a separate report that concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are at a record high. The last time Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago.
"The Paris Agreement boosted climate action, but momentum is clearly faltering," Dr. Edgar E. Gutiérrez-Espeleta, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, and President of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly, said in a statement. "We face a stark choice: up our ambition, or suffer the consequences."
The effects of climate change are not just perilous to Earth's environment—they also affect the health of millions of people around the globe, as the Guardian reported on Monday:
Heatwaves are affecting many more vulnerable people and global warming is boosting the transmission of deadly diseases such as dengue fever, the world's most rapidly spreading disease. Air pollution from fossil fuel burning is also causing millions of early deaths each year, while damage to crops from extreme weather threatens hunger for millions of children.
The findings, published in the Lancet journal, come from researchers at 26 institutions around the world, including many universities, the World Health Organization, World Bank and the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
However, the UN report does recommend practical ways to slash emissions through "rapidly expanding mitigation action based on existing options in the agriculture, buildings, energy, forestry, industry and transport sectors."
Renewable energy solutions such as solar and wind as well as efficient appliances and vehicles, planting more trees and preventing deforestation would also help cover the emissions gap, the BBC reported.
By Matthew Savoca
Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.
Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.
"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"
Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.
The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.
Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.
Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.
By Andrea Germanos
Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.
By Patrick Rogers
If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.
By Jason Bittel
Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.