World heading into ‘uncharted territory of destruction’, says climate report | climate science

The world’s chances of avoiding the worst ravages of climate change are rapidly diminishing, as we enter “uncharted territory of destruction” due to our failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take the necessary steps to avert catastrophe. , leading scientists have said.

Despite intensifying warnings in recent years, governments and companies have not changed fast enough, according to the United in Science report released Tuesday. The consequences are already being seen in increasingly extreme weather around the world, and we are in danger of causing “tipping points” in the climate system that will mean faster and in some cases irreversible changes.

The recent floods in Pakistan, which according to the country’s climate minister had covered a third of the country in water, are the latest example of extreme weather devastating parts of the world. The heat wave in Europe, including the UK, this summer, prolonged drought in China, a mega-drought in the US, and near-famine conditions in parts of Africa also reflect increasingly frequent weather extremes.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said: “There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity’s addiction to fossil fuels. This year’s United in Science report shows that climate impacts are heading into uncharted territory of destruction.”

The world is not likely to see temperatures more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels within the next five years, according to the report. Governments agreed to focus on keeping temperatures within the 1.5°C limit at the historic Cop26 UN climate summit in Glasgow last November, but their promises and actions to cut emissions fell short of what was needed, according to the report.

Since Cop26, the invasion of Ukraine and rising gas prices have prompted some governments to switch back to fossil fuels, including coal. Guterres warned of the danger: “Every year we double this addiction to fossil fuels, even as symptoms rapidly worsen.”

The world was also not adapting to the consequences of the climate crisis, according to the report. Guterres condemned rich countries that had promised assistance to the developing world but failed to deliver. “It is a scandal that developed countries have not taken adaptation seriously and have disregarded their commitments to help the developing world,” he said.

Rich countries should provide $40bn (£34.5bn) a year at a time to help countries adapt, he said, and increase that to $300bn a year by 2030.

The issue of adaptation to the impacts of extreme weather and the “loss and damage” that vulnerable countries are experiencing is likely to be one of the key issues at the upcoming UN Cop27 climate talks in Egypt in November. Prominent figures are worried on the prospects for that conference, as geopolitical upheavals have jeopardized the fragile consensus reached in Glasgow.

Tasneem Essop, executive director of the Climate Action Network, said governments must prepare for Cop27 with action plans that reflect the urgency of the crisis. “The terrifying picture presented by the United in Science report is already a lived reality for millions of people facing recurring climate disasters. The science is clear, but the addiction to fossil fuels by greedy corporations and rich countries is creating loss and damage for the communities that have done the least to cause the current climate crisis.”

He added: “For those already experiencing the climate emergency, particularly in the global south, the Cop27 conference in Egypt must agree on new funding to help them rebuild their lives.”

The United in Science report was coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization and involves the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the World Climate Research Programme, the Global Carbon Network, the UK Met Office and the Urban Climate Change Research Network. .

Separately, Oxford University researchers said shifting the global economy to a low-carbon basis would save the world at least $12 trillion (£10.4bn) by 2050, compared to current levels of carbon use. fossil fuels. Rising gas prices have highlighted the vulnerability of economies dependent on fossil fuels.

The study, published in the journal Joule on Tuesday, found that moving quickly to renewable energy and other forms of clean energy would benefit the economy as the costs of green technology have plummeted.

Rupert Way, a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, who co-authored the paper, said: “Previous models predicting high costs for the transition to carbon-free energy have deterred companies from investing and made them nervous. to governments for establishing policies that will accelerate the energy transition and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. But clean energy costs have fallen dramatically over the last decade, much faster than those models expected.”

The United in Science report found:

  • The last seven years were the hottest on record, and there is a 48% chance for at least one year in the next five that the annual mean temperature will temporarily be 1.5°C higher than the 1850-1900 average.

  • Global average temperatures are forecast to be 1.1°C to 1.7°C higher than pre-industrial levels between 2022 and 2026, and there is a 93% chance that at least one of the next five years will be warmer. warmer than the hottest year on record. 2016.

  • Falls in carbon dioxide emissions during lockdowns associated with the Covid-19 pandemic they were temporary, with carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels returning to pre-pandemic levels last year.

  • National pledges on greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to keep global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

  • Weather-related disasters are causing economic losses of $200 million a day.

  • Almost half of the planet (between 3.3 and 3.6 billion people) live in areas that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, but less than half of the countries have extreme weather warning systems.

  • As global warming increases, “tipping points” in the climate system cannot be ruled out. These include the desiccation of the Amazon rainforest, the melting of the polar ice caps, and the weakening of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, known as the Gulf Stream.

  • By the 2050s, more than 1.6 billion people living in 97 cities will be regularly exposed to three-month average temperatures reaching at least 35°C.

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