The world is headed for much less warming than predicted a decade ago, but that good news is being overshadowed by much greater pain from current climate change than scientists expected, experts said.
That’s just one of many seemingly contradictory conditions facing climate negotiators meeting in Dubai this week for marathon talks with the United Nations that will also focus for the first time on how well the world is doing in the fight against global warming warming cuts off. It is also a conference where one of the central topics will be the question of whether fossil fuels should be phased out. However, the conference is led by the CEO of an oil company.
The session will focus on the first “global stocktake” on climate, in which countries will look at what has happened since the 2015 Paris climate agreement, how things have gone off track, and likely say what is needed to get back on track the right way to come.
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Although emissions of heat-trapping gases are still rising every year, they rose more slowly than forecast from 2000 to 2015. Before the Paris Agreement, scientists at Climate Action Tracker and the United Nations Environment Program predicted about 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming over pre-industrial levels, based on how much carbon dioxide countries emitted and what they did to combat it companies planned.
That 3.5 inches is completely wrong. “That won’t happen,” said Niklas Hohne, a scientist at the NewClimate Institute who works on the Climate Action Tracker. “Our number is 2.7 (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit). With commitments and net zero targets it could be even lower.”
UNEP’s emissions gap predicted 2.5 to 2.9 degrees (4.5 to 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit). The global target is 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
Countries are promising and even starting to take action that will ultimately reduce emissions, but those cuts haven’t happened yet, said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, also of Climate Action Tracker.
“So things are not as bad as they could have been or as we feared they might be 20 years ago, but they are still a long way from where we need to be,” said climate scientist Rob Jackson of from Stanford University, who leads the scientists track global emissions annually in the Global Carbon Project.
Looking at the impact of just 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming – what the world has achieved so far – Ani Dasgupta, CEO of the World Resources Institute, said he wants to shout from the rooftops how “unfair and the devastation is unequal.” Is.”
“Nobody with half a brain can be happy where we are,” Dasgupta said.
Several scientists said scientists had for decades underestimated how much destruction even a small amount of warming would cause. And this harm we are feeling far outweighs the gains that would be made from reducing future warming projections, they said.
Hare expects more than 60,000 heat deaths in Europe in 2022. Others estimate thousands of deaths from floods in Pakistan and Libya.
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“The more we know, the more severe impacts we see from smaller temperature changes,” said Anne Olhoff, lead author of the UNEP Emissions Gap report. “The impacts are coming much faster than we previously thought and much harder than we previously thought.”
The damage the world is experiencing “is scarier to me than almost anything else,” Jackson said. “We are seeing the weather around the world starting to change and there is no sign that this will stop.”
When it comes to emissions, the most important thing is what causes them, experts say, pointing to fossil fuels.
“I think the fundamental role of fossil fuels will rightly be at the heart of the negotiations in Dubai,” said Melanie Robinson, climate director at the World Resources Institute.
Heading into the negotiations, world leaders cheered preliminary agreements to triple the use of renewable energy and double energy efficiency. But that’s not enough, said Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research.
“It requires rooting out the poisonous root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Guterres, numerous climate researchers and environmental activists all say that a phase-out – or at least an exit – from coal, oil and gas is needed.
But the host country leads the negotiations and appoints a president. The host country is the oil state United Arab Emirates, which has appointed ADNOC oil company CEO Sultan al-Jaber, who also runs a renewable energy company, as conference president. Al-Jaber and his colleagues say they can do more by bringing fossil fuel companies to the table and that it may take someone in the industry to make the necessary concessions.
Environmental activists don’t believe it.
“We cannot trust these politicians and we cannot trust the processes of the COPs because the fossil fuel industry is increasingly controlling its processes and dictating its outcomes,” said young environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
The process is in the hands of parties or nations and, due to COP rules, must be done by consensus or virtually unanimously, so a fossil fuel phase-out deal is unlikely, but a “fossil fuel phase-out is inevitable,” said Adnan Amir, the UAE’s second-largest official for climate negotiations.
“There are many different views on fossil fuel language from many different parties and exactly how we get there will depend on how we get the wording right,” said COP28 Director General Majid Al Suwaidi. “I think the mood is the same for everyone. The language we’re seeing here between the parties is really much closer than in the past.”
Hohne of the New Climate Institute said an exit is necessary but doesn’t believe Al Jaber will allow it: “He would have to fundamentally agree that the foundation of his company’s business model would go away.”
Hohne, Hare, Dasgupta and others look at al-Jaber and others’ strong promotion of carbon capture and storage – a technology that scientists say has not been proven – and fear that the climate negotiations will look as if something significant has been achieved. This is actually not the case.
“I think there is a high risk that it (the negotiations) will be greenwashed, meaning that it just looks nice but doesn’t achieve much,” said Hohne.
Activists and even United Nations officials also expressed concern that countries are highlighting their efforts to mine coal and develop renewable energy as they also approve new oil and gas drilling projects, particularly after Russia invaded Ukraine.
A report from the activist Center for Biological Diversity said that while the Biden administration’s new efforts in its Inflation Reduction Act would reduce nearly a billion tons of carbon emissions by 2030, 17 different oil and gas projects it approved would cut 1.6 billion Tons would contribute tons of emissions.
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“Governments cannot continue to promise to cut emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement and then greenlight large fossil fuel projects,” said UNEP Director Inger Andersen. “This calls into question the global energy transition and the future of humanity.”
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