Is ‘Climate change’ real?
- Wildfires triggered by extreme heat and moisture loss;
- devastating floods caused by extreme rain events; and
- tropical cyclones powered by the changing temperatures between the sea and land surface.
- The UN’s top climate science body, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its latest Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science, clearly says that human activities, for certain, are to be blamed for these climate events.
- Anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (ghgs) have warmed the planet beyond its tolerance level.
- In May this year, the atmospheric CO2 level reached 419 parts per million (ppm). This is nearly 45 per cent above IPCC’s accepted pre-industrial baseline of 278 ppm in 1750.
Who are the Prime Polluters?
The world released 36.4 gigatones of Co2 in 2019.
- Of this, China alone emitted 28 per cent of the ghg.
- Add the US and EU-27 (minus the UK), and the countries account for 50 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions.
- If we add Russia, Japan, UK, Canada, and Australia, the share goes up to 62 per cent.
- India, which is the fourth largest (third, if we do not account for EU-27 as a group), contributed some 62 Gt of CO2. It added 7 per cent to the world’s CO2 emissions in 2019.
- The entire continent of Africa, with 17 per cent of the world’s population, contributed a mere 4 per cent to the emissions in 2019.
- Under the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 as an international treaty to limit and cut greenhouse gases, countries agreed to provide voluntary targets called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCS) for how they will limit or reduce emissions.
- The agreement also stated that NDCS would work to achieve the goal of keeping global temperature rise this century to well below 2°C above the pre-industrial level and to pursue efforts to limit the rise to 1.5°C.
- IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), published in 2014, found that the world can emit 2,250 GtCO2 between 1861 and 2100 for a 66 per cent chance of staying within 1.5 degree C.
- IPCC AR6 published in 2021 revealed a revised estimate. Starting 2020, the world now has a total budget of 400 GtCO2 for a 66 per cent probability to stay below 1.5°C.
- Unsurprisingly, historical emissions from 1870 to 2019 reveal a deep inequity:
How it ends (Target 2030)
- In its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), IPCC does not include the historical budget but states that the remaining budget is 400 Gt of CO2 for the world to have a 66 per cent probability of staying below 1.5°C.
- This carbon budget includes emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry, roughly 3.3 per cent. If this is deducted, then the world has a remaining carbon budget for fossil fuel emissions of 387 Gt from 2020 to keep it below 1.5°C, as per AR6.
- This transformation—growing, but with the emissions that will further jeopardise the world—will need huge funding and technology support. This is not about charity, but about fixing what has been broken, in the interest of all.
- The United Nations’ “Production Gap Report 2021”, released on October 20, 2021, factors in the economic impact of the covid-19 pandemic, and states that countries are on the path to producing more than double the amount of fossil fuels (around 110 per cent) in 2030 than would be consistent with the median 1.5°C-warming pathway, and 45 per cent more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with the median 2°C-warming
- The gap will grow post-2030 because of the renewed investments in fossil fuels made by several countries after the pandemic.
- By 2040, countries’ plans and projections show 190 per cent more fossil fuels than would be consistent with the median 1.5°C pathway, and 89 per cent more than the median 2°C pathway.
- As part of their covid-19 responses, governments have provided support to the production of fossil fuels through new tax incentives, guarantees, regulatory changes, and other financial support, largely without accompanying social, economic, or environmental requirements.
- The “Emissions Gap Report 2021”, another UN report released a week later, shows that the new nationally determined contributions (NDCs), combined with other mitigation pledges, put the world on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7°C by the end of the century, even if all new unconditional commitments are met.
- Additional implementation of net-zero targets could reduce global warming by another 0.5°C, but these plans are currently ambiguous and not fully reflected in NDCs.
- To keep global warming below 1.5°C this century, the world needs to urgently put additional policies and actions in place to almost halve annual greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years.
- To quantify the production gap, the UN report looks individually at three fossil fuel components: coal, oil and gas. It says that global coal, oil and gas production should annually decrease by 11 per cent, 4 per cent, and 3 per cent respectively between 2020 and 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C.
- The reality is much worse. By 2030, the world, at the current pace, would produce 240 per cent more coal, 57 per cent more oil, and 71 per cent more gas than consistent with the median 1.5°C-warming pathway; and 120 per cent more coal, 14 per cent more oil and 15 per cent more gas than consistent with the median 2°C-warming pathway.
- The production gap for oil is also substantial. Nations are planning on producing around 40 million barrels (6.36 billion litres) per day more oil than would be consistent with the 1.5°C pathway in 2030. This excess is roughly equivalent to half of the current global oil production.
- Similarly, for gas, countries are planning on producing 2 trillion cubic metres more in 2030 than would be consistent with the median 1.5°C-warming pathway. This excess is roughly equivalent to half of the current global gas production.
- As the world meets at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change with this high fossil fuel dependency, it is going to be the last opportunity for the world to limit global warming.