Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will be impossible without urgent and immense reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a UN report released Thursday. The report was prepared by numerous UN agencies and associated scientists just weeks before the COP26 global climate summit.
Titled “United in Science 2021,” the report explains how climate change has deteriorated, even with the temporary reduction in CO2 emissions resulting from the pandemic.
“This year, fossil fuel emissions have rebounded, greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, and severe human-induced weather events have affected health, lives and livelihoods on every continent,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote in the foreword of the report.
Guterres describes the report as “an alarming diagnosis of how far off course we have gone” in reference to the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Agreement, which was signed at COP21, called for global warming to be limited to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but ideally no more than 1.5°C.
Greenhouse gas emissions fell by 5.6% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic after peaking in 2019, but average global emissions have now largely returned to pre-pandemic levels with the exception of the aviation and shipping sectors.
“There was some thinking that the Covid lockdowns would have had a positive impact on the atmosphere,” Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, said at a news briefing. “This is not the case.”
Even still, concentrations of greenhouse gases still rose in 2020 and continue to do so during the first half of 2021. As a whole, any slowing during 2020 was “too small to be distinguished from natural variations,” the report states.
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As it stands, the planet’s average temperature from 2017 up until June 2021 is estimated to be between +1.06°C and +1.26°C in comparison with pre-industrial times.
“We really don’t have any more time to lose,” said Guterres.
The countries that have already committed to a zero-emissions target currently account for 63% of global emissions. However, more significant actions will still be necessary by 2030.
“I hope that all these issues will be addressed and resolved, at COP26,” Guterres said of the conference, which will take place in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12. Guterres continued to call on each country to commit to a zero-emissions target by 2050. “Our future is at stake,” he stated.
The Brussels Times