World leaders have wasted a ton of valuable time not pursuing climate action—so much that our only hope now is curtailing greenhouse gas emissions at an unprecedented rate.
A bleak report report published by the United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) on Tuesday warns that global temperatures are on track to rise by as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. As last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed, even reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) could usher in the loss of nearly all coral reefs and most Arctic sea ice. The new report warns that the nearly 4 degrees Celsius of warming we’re on track for would be “destructive.”
“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over 7 per cent each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade,” Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director, said in a statement.
The annual Emissions Gap Report shows that Global emissions have risen by about 1.5 percent every year for the past decade. According to another new report from the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization, levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached an all-time high in 2018 and are showing no signs of slowing down.
To keep temperatures increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius and adhere to the Paris Climate Accord, nations will have to halve their 2018 levels by 2030. That means cutting global greenhouse gas emissions 7.6 percent every year for the next decade. The report calls on all countries to drastically reduce their emissions, but says not everyone should bear an equal burden. Members of the G20—the world’s most developed countries—contribute some 78 percent of all emissions, so “for reasons of fairness and equity,” they need to take the lead.
As the world’s biggest historical emitter, the U.S. should bear a particularly heavy burden to curb carbon pollution. But we’re moving in the wrong direction: National carbon emissions rose by 2.7 percent last year. The report states that even nations’ pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement won’t keep the Earth anywhere near 1.5 degrees of warming, and Trump is even withdrawing the nation from that.
Like the spate of recent, groundbreaking reports from international scientists, the UNEP calls for radical, transformative changes to the global economy. We have the technology to make those changes. What we don’t have is time to mess around with half-measures.
“It is evident that incremental changes will not be enough and there is a need for rapid and transformational action,” the authors wrote. “By necessity, this will see profound change in how energy, food, and other material-intensive services are demanded and provided by governments, businesses, and markets.”
The study comes just days international climate talks are set to resume. At COP25 in Madrid, civic leaders will be tasked with submitting bolder climate action plans to meet the Paris Accord. And the new report shows the stakes couldn’t be any higher.
“Across the globe, resistance to fossil fuels is rising, the climate strikes have shown the world that we are prepared to take action. Going forward people will keep up a steady drumbeat of actions, strikes and protests that get louder and louder throughout 2020,” said May Boeve, Chief Executive of 350.org, in a statement. “To governments attending Cop25 in Madrid, the eyes of all future generations are upon you.”