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Shifting with urgency

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As fossil fuel CO2 emissions continue to rise, scientists have warned that the world may cross the crucial 1.5C global warming threshold in seven years, urging countries at the COP28 talks to act now on coal, oil, and gas pollution.

Fossil fuel CO2 pollution still rose 1.1 percent last year, with surging emissions from China and India – now the world’s first and third biggest emitters, respectively, according to an international consortium of climate scientists in their annual Global Carbon Project assessment.

They estimated a 50 percent chance that warming will exceed the Paris deal’s goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius over multiple years by around 2030.

The landmark 2015 Paris Agreement saw countries commit to limiting temperature rise to well below 2C above the preindustrial era, preferably 1.5C. That lower and more ambitious goal has since taken on greater urgency as evidence emerges that warming beyond it could trigger dangerous and irreversible tipping points.

However, to keep to that limit, the UN’s IPCC climate science panel has said CO2 emissions need to be halved this decade, which is becoming a more challenging task as emissions continue to rise, the Global Carbon Project found.

Glen Peter, a senior researcher at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research, said carbon dioxide emissions are now six percent higher than when countries signed the Paris deal. “Things are going in the wrong direction,” he said.

That is all despite a promising surge in renewable energy. “Solar, wind, electric vehicles, batteries, they’re all growing rapidly, which is great. But that is only half the story,” he said. “The other half is reducing fossil fuel emissions. And we’re simply not doing enough.”

The world’s nations have just agreed to a new climate deal, making an unprecedented call to transition away from fossil fuels, although vague language could allow some countries to exploit loopholes. This is an encouraging development but as past experience has shown, more concrete action is needed if we are to prevent the climate catastrophe that experts are predicting if we don’t do enough.*

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