For the UN, it is not possible that, to date, its technical and scientific records cannot properly establish that the 195 nations – that signed the Paris Agreement in December 2015 – have achieved the commitments made in terms of environmental care. After the Climate Change Conference, which marked the beginning of the commemoration of Earth Day every April 22, it is clear that for this organization there is no intrinsic value in congratulating ourselves for the shared accomplishments if the goals are just not being met.
The UN’s studies, programs, and scientific outlook, which it commissions to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), are clear that, if the climate goals are not achieved, global warming will be increasingly devastating and life on Earth will elapse under uncertain conditions, and with an increasingly warmer forecast.
In November, the WMO issued an alarming and discouraging report: the level of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) accumulated in the Earth’s ozone layer will eventually modify the planet’s temperature at unprecedented levels. The organization warns that this situation will be threatening and harmful to people’s health and wellbeing.
According to the UN, there is no clear evidence of attempts to make investments that reverse this trend effectively. The organization estimates that the sea level will rise and ocean acidification levels will increase in the long term. Furthermore, meteorological phenomena will start to emerge with no previous indication.
CO2 and CFC emissions conspiring
Studies conducted by UN agencies reveal that the last time that the atmosphere concentrated a similar amount of CO2 as seen nowadays was three to five million years ago. As a result, temperatures increased by 2 to 3 degrees and the sea levels rose between 10 and 20 meters above current levels. In January, UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres appealed to the international community, stating: “I believe we are losing the race. The reality is proving to be worse than scientists had foreseen, and all the last indicators show that.”
Moreover, globally banned CFC emissions – a powerful gas that has been shown to cause ozone depletion – are reemerging. To recall: In July 2018, delegations from 140 nations of the Montreal Protocol unanimously called to urgently quantify, localize, and stop these emissions, banned since 2010.
For instance, recent finds from the Montreal Protocol’s Scientific Evaluation Group published in Nature magazine indicate that CFC levels had increased since 2012. The data suggest that the biggest source of these emissions is East Asia.
This week (3 May) saw humanity’s first day ever with more than 415 parts per million #CO2 in the air (415.09 ppm at Mauna Loa observatory) 👉 https://t.co/7ZF32wAk9O Source: @keeling_curve 📈#ClimateChange #ParisAgreement #ClimateAction #ClimateAmbition pic.twitter.com/iZrBh7Vhr3
— UN Climate Change (@UNFCCC) 5 de mayo de 2019
Similarly, since the early 1990s, overall radiative forcing has increased to 41%. Radiative forcing is the difference between insolation (sunlight) absorbed by the Earth and energy radiated back to space. This component also feeds global warming, which is mainly caused by long-term greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for 82% of the growth seen in radiative forcing over the past ten years.
“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
In light of this environmental paradigm, the aim of maintaining the global temperature rise below 2°C seems unlikely. Even more so without the will and determination necessary for committed nations to close the emissions gap before 2030. This would entail reducing emissions to 25% under the levels recorded in 2017, according to the data provided by expert UN agencies.
The ultimate goal of limiting global temperatures to 1.5 °C will demand an effort five times greater. If the present trend continues, the temperature will go up to 3°C by the end of the century and will continue to increase.
The UN, however, believes that emissions could be reduced by up to 10% by eliminating all subsidies to fossil fuels. The organism sustains that some of these options could be implemented without significant economic and social impact.
A light at the end of the tunnel
In December 2018, the Polish city of Katowice hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24). During the conference, attendees laid the foundation to reactivate the 2015 Paris Agreement. Specialists consider this the key to designing the instruments that will facilitate approaching compliance with these goals in an effective and efficient manner, as it evidences the international community’s capacity to reach encouraging pacts.
Its achievements include the deal to establish a significant part of the Rulebook, regarded as the technical framework to set the Paris Agreement into motion. Furthermore, the conference determined that this year members will work on cooperation mechanisms, the instrument created to help other countries meet their climate goals through the transfer of emissions.
⚠️ @PEspinosaC warns that the fate of the #Arctic hinges on #ParisAgreement implementation. ➡️ Failure to protect it would have dire consequences for the entire planet >> https://t.co/c9zYX6uexY pic.twitter.com/ibQP46PBIM
— UN Climate Change (@UNFCCC) 7 de mayo de 2019
The summit was also the scenario to establish an agreement on the norms to make a global stocktaking in 2023, as well as a process to approve a new global climate finance target in 2025.
Around 200 participating nations approved the measures to improve access to information and the actions to ensure adaptation to climate change. A Compliance Committee was created and subsequently approved three important statements on fair transition, electric mobility, and forests.
The risks of climate change
In January, in an unprecedented move, the WMO warned the UN Security Council about the risks and consequences that the imminent climate change could have on global peace and safety.
“The World Economic Forum report highlights – yet again – the critical importance of WMO’s core business,” WMO chief scientist and research director, Pavel Kabat stated. “And early warnings are at the heart of that business. Early warnings to prevent natural hazards from becoming disasters. And early warnings about our changing climate, which were issued a full 40 years ago, at the First World Climate Conference, organized by WMO in 1979,” he said.
In 2018, the WMO stated that the last four years had been the warmest on record, accompanied by high impact events that are the product of climate change. The warmest 20 years ever recorded have occurred in the past 22 years. The average global temperature is nearly 1°C above temperatures in the pre-industrial era.
2018 was the fourth warmest year in the history of the planet. Forecasts of rising temperatures are even higher, as compared with the estimates made by some governments, which warn of the dangers of this situation.
We just had the 2nd warmest April on record (after 2016), nearly 0.6°C above April 1981-2010 average, per @CopernicusECMWF #C3s. Temps most above average at high northern latitudes for April and in Arctic for the 12 month period. See https://t.co/XkfRza7OWp #ClimateChange pic.twitter.com/ui0edQK2q5
— WMO | OMM (@WMO) 9 de mayo de 2019
The warmer temperatures seen in 2018 were caused by wildfires in California and Greece, drought in South Africa, and floods in Kerala (India). Record levels of GHG emissions, mainly due to fossil fuel burning, are capturing more and more heat.
“The impact of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation, and ecosystem change,” said NASA’s GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. The report ratifies that 2018 has been the fourth warmest year in history.
This brand new year has started to record scorching temperatures. January has been the hottest month on record in Australia. But, in an event that contrasts with the general trend, some areas in the United States recently experienced an unusual cold snap caused by Arctic winds.
Beyond that, the forecast from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) indicates that at least a third of the ice in the Himalayas could melt over the next 80 years. This trend will be irreversible, even if immediate measures are adopted to slow down climate change.
After 2018 was confirmed to be one of the warmest in history, global warming could decimate the mountains of the Himalayas in just one century, among other alarming consequences. Much to the dismay of the UN and future generations.
For more information, check Energía16