A report entitled United In Science 2021, written by the World Meteorological Organization in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Program, the International Panel on Climate Change, UNESCO, and several other groups, paints a dire picture of a planet that is rapidly overheating due to human activity.
Joeri Rogelj is one of the authors of the report and a lecturer on climate change and the environment at the Grantham Institute of Imperial College London. In a statement, he says, “The messages in this report provide a grim and alarming picture. We are experiencing unprecedented climate change. We have caused it. And our actions to date are largely insufficient to avoid it from getting worse. The combined evidence in this report should empower anyone to make sure the report’s messages are heard in places of power by those making decisions about our future.” According to Common Dreams, Rogelj is pointedly referring to COP 26, the upcoming UN climate summit in Glasgow, as “a key date where the world will have to come together to take the decisions necessary to halt climate change within our lifetimes.”
In his foreword to the report, Antonio Gutteres, the Secretary General of the United Nations had this to say:
“This is a critical year for climate action. This report by the United Nations and global scientific partner organizations provides a holistic assessment of the most recent climate science. The result is an alarming appraisal of just how far off course we are.
“We are still significantly off-schedule to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This year has seen fossil fuel emissions bounce back, greenhouse gas concentrations continuing to rise and severe human-enhanced weather events that have affected health, lives and livelihoods on every continent. Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5°C will be impossible, with catastrophic consequences for people and the planet on which we depend.
“This report is clear. Time is running out. For the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, known as COP26, to be a turning point, we need all countries to commit to net zero emissions by 2050, backed up by concrete long-term strategies, and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which collectively cut global emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels.
“We need a breakthrough on protecting people and their livelihoods, with at least half of all public climate finance committed to building resilience and helping people adapt. And we need much greater solidarity, including full delivery of the long-standing climate finance pledge to help developing countries take climate action. There is no alternative if we are to achieve a safer, more sustainable and prosperous future for all.”
Key points noted in the report are that concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide continued to increase in 2020 and the first half of 2021 after falling briefly because of the Covid pandemic. “Initial estimates for 2021 [that] show a strong recovery in emissions with a possible return to pre-Covid levels within a year or two,” the report says, and goes on to highlight how an overheating planet affects human health.
“The increased occurrence of wildfires leads to peaks in air pollution concentrations. Long term exposure to air pollution is linked to chronic diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, heart diseases, effects on the nervous system and diabetes.”
Remember how in 2015 the world community focused on the goal of keeping average global temperatures from rising more than 1.5º C by 2050? Well, forget that. The UN report suggests the annual global mean temperature will be between 0.9°C and 1.8°C above pre-industrial conditions for the period of 2021–2025, with a 40% chance of a single year within that 5-year span being 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas says the report shows global demands for governments to “build back better” from the pandemic have fallen on deaf ears. “We are not going in the right direction,” he says.
An Absence Of Political Will
President Biden has been aggressively promoting policies designed to reduce carbon, but is meeting fierce resistance from many quarters. Senator Joe Manchin says he cannot in good conscience commit to spending $3.5 trillion to make America a more just society with modern infrastructure, but he has never met a defense spending bill he didn’t like.
Apparently the more than $12 trillion the US has spent fighting terrorism since 9/11 is OK with Joe, but keeping the Earth safe for human habitation is a bridge too far for him. He is not alone, of course. Lobbyists for every industry in America are busy fighting to get Uncle Sugar’s money for themselves and their clients.
I am one of those people who likes to read the comments to news stories online. Here’s one posted on Common Dreams by someone with the user name CoolBreeze that I found thoughtful, incisive, and worthy of sharing with my readers:
“COP 26 is coming up. That’s 26 years of virtual inaction and lip service by world leaders. There is no reason to expect world leaders to face reality this time….unless there is some cataclysmic event such as the virus mutates and kills 3/4 of humans or there are so many extreme climate events at once that the corporate/capitalist stranglehold loses control and is finally seen as the self serving entity it really is. They have never cared what the people they claim they are serving want or need.”
The evidence is growing that we are just going to run out the clock on humanity. The Earth will survive. Jupiter has an average daytime temperature of minus 145º C and it still continues to revolve around the sun. Mercury is 430º C during the daytime yet it still stays in orbit. The Earth has been around for billions of years and will still be around for another billion or so after humans become extinct.
No one takes our climate emergency seriously. We are more concerned with keeping “them” from crossing our borders and defending our right to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies. With all that important stuff going on, who has time for depressing news about the climate?
No one wants to be all pessimistic and gloomy about the future, but it’s hard to adopt a sunny attitude in an age where artificial stupidity is rampant upon the land. We could address global warming effectively if we all worked together in good faith for the common good. Oh, yeah. Like that’s ever going to happen.