Scientists say Paris deal is not nearly enough to curb harmful global warming
By Bob Berwyn
The Paris climate agreement will likely be triggered into force within the next few weeks, which marks the beginning — not the end — of an intense effort to try and cap global warming before the planet is overwhelmed by heatwaves, droughts and super storms.
Governments and citizens need to rapidly ramp up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, a group of scientists said this week, releasing a new report showing that the climate pledges made toward the Paris agreement won’t do the trick.
“The INDC’s are totally inadequate to meet the 2-degree Celsius goal,” said British scientist Sir Robert Watson, a former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Governments must double and redouble their pledges,” he said, adding that it’s almost certain that the average global temperature will surpass the aspirational 1.5 degree goal as soon as 2030.
Under the Paris deal, more than 190 countries agreed to try and limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. Above that, climate change impacts could spiral out of control. And unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut immediately and in a big way, it’s likely the world will pass that 2 degree Celsius threshold as soon as 2050, Watson said.
The report was prepared on behalf the Universal Ecological Fund, an Argentine-based NGO and was co-authored by scientists from Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
During a Sept. 29 teleconference, several of the authors said they released the concise document to give the public more information about climate change, making it clear that the Paris agreement is not enough to prevent catastrophic climate change, and spelling out what must be done in addition to the targets set under the deal.
“Even with all the support in the world, the pledges are not enough. We felt it was appropriate now to point out that we expect more of governments,” Watson said. “it’s important that the average citizen hears about this. It’s necessary to understand the science, and to understand what citizens need to do to make the Paris agreement work. Getting to the 2 degrees target takes action now, not in 15 years. There’s no time to lose.
“Scientists know what to do. We are trying to explain this in a simple way. We believe the public has a critical role in getting governments to take stronger action and the public must know what’s at stake,” said Lillian Hisas, executive director of the Universal Ecological Fund.
The reason that’s not clear yet is because there has been a “miscommunication” of climate change. That has created “misunderstandings in the public, which has led many to perceive climate change as abstract, distant and even controversial,” the authors wrote in their report, citing “deliberate misinformation from deniers and sectors with vested interests in maintaining the current situation.”
From the report (read the full report here):
“There are many signs that the climate is already changing. Yet some think that climate change is only going to happen by the end of the century. Because of this common misunderstanding, the urgency of climate change has been misunderstood by most … Climate change is happening now, and much faster than anticipated. The evidence is what most have been experiencing as unusual weather events, such as changes in average rain patterns leading to floods or droughts, more intense storms, heat waves and wildfires, among others daily examples46. Some of these impacts of climate change already had devastating effects on livelihoods, infrastructure and lives.”
Among other things, the report makes it clear that, along cutting greenhouse gas emissions drastically, the world will have to figure out more efficient ways of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with capture and storage technologies. And countries that are big sources of greenhouse gases must do even more to reduce their emissions, much sooner rather than later.
And ultimately, the change must come at the grassroots level, said co-author Nebojsa Nakicenovic Deputy director general and deputy CEO of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
“I would argue, it is us, individuals, citizens and families. We need pioneers of change in society,” he said. “The public has to demand, for example, no internal combustion engines, no coal power plants, or at least no new coal power plants carbon capture and storage. We need, as individuals, new values and norms. Business as usual is not going to work.”
“We have to remember, we’re all consumers. When we buy, we’re voting,” said co-author Pablo Canziani a senior scientist with the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, and professor at the National Technological University in Argentina. “I call it the fever of global change … all the things we are doing wrong,” he said.
The cold, hard numbers on climate change are daunting enough, but you also have to realize that the issue has to be addressed in the context of global equity, he said.
“Even as we make these changes, we have provide a better life for the 40 percent that are still outside the economic system,” he concluded.