Monday, November 20, 2023

Temperature outpaces policy: Still fighting over 1.5 degrees warming? Dude, we’re already way past that.


Climate change impact predictions have long been based on best case scenarios, but that’s not where we are headed.

We are headed for catastrophe. At this point the question is when.

What kind of catastrophe? Like, the only way to get into O’ahu by air would be by seaplane. Legislators arriving at the State Capitol by boat. Coastal highways impassable. Harbor facilities underwater. Coastal communities on all islands awash. And the economy long gone. No sandy beaches and, anyway, no way for visitors to get here.

Numerous climate reports are being released in anticipation of the United Nations Climate Change Summit, COP28, Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. They are painting scenarios more horrific than any before.

“The world is witnessing a disturbing acceleration in the number, speed and scale of broken climate records,” said the UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report 2023, which was released today (Nov. 20, 2023).

We have long talked about limiting climate warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial times. But in many parts of the world, actual temperature is outpacing policy, and heat is already higher than the 1.5-degree standard.

“Humanity is breaking all the wrong records when it comes to climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions reached a new high in 2022. In September 2023, global average temperatures were 1.8°C above pre-industrial levels,” wrote Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environmental Programme, in the introduction to the emissions gap report.

New York Times writer Lisa Friedman wrote today: “Two facts loom over United Nations climate talks that begin Nov. 30 in Dubai: the planet is careening toward climate disaster, and governments are acting too slowly to avert the crisis.” 

We are doing a lot. It’s just not enough, not nearly enough. All our electric cars, efficient buildings and solar farms have been inadequate. 

Even if every nation carried out its commitments in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and the 20 largest economies are projected to miss those commitments, temperatures by end-of-century will rise 2.9 percent above pre-industrial levels. We are already more than halfway there and we still have 77 years to go.

The greenhouse gas adjustments to date have been “baby steps,” said Simon Stiell, Executive-Secretary of UN-Climate Change.

Emissions of greenhouse gases, far from declining, are still going up. One paper prepared for the COP28 summit suggests that the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent by 2030 to keep temperatures in check. Maybe, if the whole world keeps to its climate commitments, it will stabilize temperatures and thus at least limit the heights to which seas will rise.

Maybe, but look at the evidence. We are continuing to burn fossil fuels, more every year. The International Energy Agency’s November 2023 Oil Market Report shows that the world reached a new high of crude oil production, at 102 million barrels a day.

“World oil supply growth is ... exceeding expectations,” the report says. “Fears that the war between Israel and Hamas would escalate into a wider regional conflict, disrupting oil supply flows, have yet to materialise. Barring large unforeseen outages, world oil supply is firmly on an upward trajectory.”

That doesn’t bode well for getting to a 43 percent reduction.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2023