Leaders from countries across the globe are in Poland for a new round of climate talks, otherwise known as COP24. They’re still trying to find agreement on how to keep climate change from rising to two degrees Celsius.
As has been frequently discussed by climate scientists, when global temperatures rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the impacts of climate change grow exponentially and could be catastrophic. This is the most important number most have never heard of, the threshold at which the world should aim to keep global warming.
In fact, a recent IPCC report has already urged ‘urgent, transformational’ change is needed to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Even then, some scientific experts are warning that the target may not even be ambitious enough.
As COP24 meetings in Poland are underway, a new report called the Global Carbon Budget warns that worldwide carbon emissions will hit an all-time high this year. The Global Carbon Project (GCP), the organisation behind the report, says emissions are blamed for global warming rising to 2.7 percent this year. The report, which includes annual analysis of trends in the global carbon cycle, blames the global use of coal, oil and gas for this increase, as well as greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.
“The growing global demand for energy is outpacing decarbonisation efforts. This needs to change, and it needs to change quickly,” said lead researcher Prof Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.
According to the GCP, almost all countries have contributed to the rise in global emissions; either by growth in emissions, or reductions that are slower than expected. Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry will reach around 37.1 billion tonnes carbon dioxide in 2018; add all other human activities (such as transportation, agriculture) and it will reach around 41.5 billion tonnes carbon dioxide a record high.
The biggest carbon emitters in 2017 are:
- China 27%
- US 15%
- EU 10%
- India 7%
Together they account for almost 60 percent of global carbon emissions.
“Global commitments made in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions are not yet being matched by proportionate actions,” said Glen Peters, a Research Director at CICERO. “Despite rapid growth in low carbon technologies such as solar and wind power, electric vehicles, and batteries, not nearly enough is being done to support policies that limit the amount of carbon dioxide that is put into the atmosphere”.
The sobering Global Carbon Budget report comes on the heels of another damning one, the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) which was prepared with the support and approval of 13 US government agencies, and with input from hundreds of scientific experts. The NCA4 report highlighted the climate risks faced by US communities such as increased wildfires, economic disruption and loss, and coastal flooding, if the country did not implement policies to curb emissions.
While the US faces challenges in dealing with its emissions, namely, achieving bipartisan agreement for climate policies; China’s emissions, which slowed down between 2014 to 2016 (and played a key role in the global emissions slow down during those years), has picked back up again, expecting to rise by 4.7 percent this year.
“There was hope that China was rapidly moving away from coal power generation, but the last two years has shown it will not be so easy for China to say farewell to coal quickly,” said Jan Ivar Korsbakken, Senior Researcher at CICERO. “Coal is likely to dominate the Chinese energy system in the next decade, even if the skyrocketing growth seen in the mid-2000s is unlikely to return.”
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Viewed from a broader context, while global fossil CO2 emissions grew at over three percent per year in the 2000s, growth had actually slowed since 2010 and remained steady from 2014 to 2016 emissions with minor increases being recorded.
“The slowdown in emissions growth from 2014 to 2016 was always a delicate balance,” said Robbie Andrew, a Senior Researcher at CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo. “The 1.6 percent increase in 2017 and growth in excess of two percent in 2018 clearly demonstrates that more needs to be done to reduce emissions.”
Twitter exploded with this latest global warming news, with scientists and climate activists calling for more to be done.
Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish activist who went on school strike for climate, and who inspired thousands of Aussie school kids just last week to do the same, tweeted, ” ‘Fossil fuel emissions rose by 1.7% in 2017 and are set to rise 2.7% this year..’ Whatever our world leaders are “doing” to reduce emissions, they are doing it wrong.”
”Fossil fuel emissions rose by 1.7% in 2017 and are set to rise 2.7% this year..”
Whatever our world leaders are “doing” to reduce emissions, they are doing it wrong.https://t.co/07ZonTGKEw
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 5, 2018
So what can be done to reduce global carbon emissions?
Plenty, but it requires politicians from all nations to take action now, and some of us demanding politicians to consider climate science rather than their careers or financial ties to industry (aka “legal bribes” in the form of corporate donations).
Since politicians are outnumbered by the people they represent, here’s what can be done to “motivate” them to achieve desirable climate outcomes:
Get socially political
Get on social media and start following your local politicians. A quick Google search will provide the answers if you don’t know who they are. Get to know their stance on climate change and what they’re doing about it. If they aren’t doing anything about it, here’s what you do: Tweet them, message them, email them each and every day asking why they won’t and why they should.
Divest from coal, invest in renewables
Check your investments and if you’re investing in coal and other fossil fuel projects, put your money where your heart and mouth is and start divesting. Put that money into renewable energy companies and startups focussed on innovative clean energy projects. This goes for your retirement fund or superannuation as it’s known in Australia. Check out Australian Ethical Super or Future Super if you’re keen to make the switch to super that aligns with your ethical values.
Make sure to follow relevant activist organisations such as 350.org and GetUp to be notified of upcoming protest marches, sit-ins and other events that enable you to take collective action for the environment.
Boycott to get their attention
Use capitalism for good; avoid financially supporting political parties, politicians and the businesses they are aligned with to send the message that you want climate action. Unfortunately, when logic and scientific data doesn’t work to fast track action, money, or rather the lack of it, might just do the trick.
Make sure to walk the walk yourself
Encouraging everyone else to be more climate-conscious is fine if you’re walking the walk, but if you’re just talking, that’s a real problem. Check out our sustainable lifestyle guide that lists over 101 things you can do to live sustainably. You might also enjoy reading our guide to ditching single-use disposables.
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