The UN is warning the world to “get out of the way” over limiting warming to 1.5°C ahead of the COP28 meeting in Dubai.
Global commitments to reduce emissions are not enough to limit the effects of climate change, and the Earth is on track to warm to a potentially catastrophic 2.9°C (5.2°F) this century, the United Nations has warned.
Yearbook of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Emissions gap the report, released on Monday, assesses countries’ promises to combat climate change against the actions needed.
This year is expected to be the hottest in human history.
“The world is witnessing an alarming acceleration in the number, speed and scale of climate records being broken,” UNEP said.
The report finds that the world risks warming by between 2.5°C (4.5°F) and 2.9°C (5.2°F) above pre-industrial levels, on current commitments, if governments they will not take more aggressive climate action.
Scientists predict that at this level of warming, the world could pass several catastrophic points of no return, ranging from rapidly melting ice sheets to the drying up of the Amazon rainforest, making vast swaths of the planet essentially uninhabitable for humans.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “dramatic climate action” at the COP28 climate talks, which start on November 30 in Dubai.
He compared the emissions gap to a canyon.
“Leaders cannot continue to kick the can. We have gone off the rails,” he said, condemning “the failure of leadership, the betrayal of the weaker and a huge missed opportunity.”
Guterres said the world “must change course” and make a decisive move away from polluting coal, oil and gas.
Time to “step up”
In the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries agreed to limit global warming to “well below” 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels – with a safer limit of 1.5°C (2.7°F), if it’s possible.
So far, nearly 1.2°C (2.2°F) of global warming has already triggered a growing wave of deadly threats – from intensifying hurricanes to floods and deadly heatwaves – across the planet.
UNEP said temperatures have risen above 1.5°C (2.7°F) already this year on more than 80 days, although warming thresholds in Paris will be measured as an average over several decades.
The report said emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases must fall by 42 percent by 2030 to keep warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F).
But even in the most optimistic emissions scenario, the chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) is only 14 percent, he added.
The report indicates that the world continues to pump record amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, with emissions expected to increase by 1.2 percent in 2021-2022, reaching a record high of 57.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. It noted that this increase was largely due to the burning of fossil fuels and industrial processes.
UNEP chief Inger Andersen said it was vital that G20 countries – the world’s richest economies, collectively responsible for around 80 percent of emissions – “step up” and lead the way in reductions, but lamented that some were in “snooze mode”.
The report indicated that none of the G20 countries had reduced emissions in line with their targets.