Earth’s on track to warm above 2°C despite climate action

GOVERNMENT plans to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions aren’t enough to avoid catastrophic global warming, with the planet on track to heat up between 2.1°C and 2.9°C by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, according to a new report from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

Despite some progress in the last year, governments need to do more by 2030 to ensure that the global temperature increase is below 2°C and ideally closer to 1.5°C — the goal set in the Paris Agreement reached in 2015. The UNFCCC reached its conclusions by analysing all national climate plans, also known as nationally- determined contributions, submitted since 2015. 

“The good news — projections show emissions won’t be increasing after 2030,” UN climate change executive secretary Simon Stiell told reporters on Oct 26. “The bad news — they’re still not demonstrating the rapid downward trend scientists say is necessary this decade.” 

Climate scientists estimate that human-caused GHG emissions need to halve by the end of this decade, and to be eliminated by mid-century in order to keep warming below 2°C by 2100. While the consequences of planetary heating above that threshold are deemed to be catastrophic, today’s warming of 1.1°C above pre-industrial times has already resulted in irreversible changes, according to the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

Extreme weather events have exposed millions of people to food insecurity and malnutrition; heat-related deaths have increased; and climate migration has risen. Agriculture, tourism and fishing are seeing losses. Rich countries that are most responsible for historical CO2 emissions also have the most resources to adapt, while poorer countries that have contributed little to climate change face the brunt of the shocks. — Bloomberg

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition