The world is dragging its heels when it comes to responding to climate change.
An author of a key UN report that will outline the imposing threat of global warming recently stated that countries are “nowhere near on track” to meet their commitment to avoid temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period.
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“It’s extraordinarily challenging to get to the 1.5C target and we are nowhere near on track to doing that,” said Drew Shindell, a Duke University climate scientist and a co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, in an interview with the Guardian. “While it’s technically possible, it’s extremely improbable, absent a real sea change in the way we evaluate risk. We are nowhere near that.”
The goal was set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, when international leaders agreed to curb the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above the era prior to mass industrialization, noted the report. But the aspiration was to limit this to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Frighteningly, scientists have pointed out, the world has already warmed by around 1 degree Celsius in the last century, fueling sea level rises, heat waves, storms, and the decline of coral reefs. Meanwhile, the adoption of new technologies and practices has not increased to meet the challenge.
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“The penetration rate of new technology historically takes a long time,” Shindell said, according to The Week. “It’s not simple to change these things. There aren’t good examples in history of such rapid, far-reaching transitions.”
Some leaders asserted at the UN General Assembly in New York this week that the challenge to fend off climate change is that much harder without the support of the US, which recently backed out of the Paris agreement under the Trump administration. The US is now the only country to do so.
“It’s a lot more difficult without the US as a leader in climate change negotiations,” Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s environment minister, told the Guardian. “We have to find solutions even though the US isn’t there.”
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Norway, one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, recommitted at the assembly to transition from fossil fuels faster, embrace electric cars, and halt deforestation.
“The 1.5C target is difficult, but it’s possible,” said Elvestuen. “The next four to 12 years are crucial ones, where we will set the path to how the world will develop in the decades ahead. The responsibility in doing this is impossible to overestimate. To reach the goals of the Paris agreement we need large structural changes.”
The report arrives just weeks after António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said in an address to global leaders that the world has less than two years to avoid “runaway climate change," noted The Hill.
Should countries not respond with urgency, a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming means that the Arctic would be ice-free in summer, half of land-based creatures would be severely affected, and deadly heat waves would become far more common, noted the report.