Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

17 Dec 2018

Another small step

Posted by Michael Keating

It was another small step for humankind in the face of the greatest disaster our species has faced since the last ice age. Last Saturday, representatives from 196 countries and the European Union signed the Katowice Climate Package. The Katowice guidelines cover how to set new targets for financing emissions reductions, how to measure progress and how to verify reductions. The meeting in a coal mining city in southern Poland was unable to reach agreement on how to create a market in carbon credits. The issue of making even deeper cuts to emissions has been pushed to a UN summit next September. One delegate summed up the meeting by saying, “it’s what’s possible, but not what’s necessary.”

The Katowice conference, known as COP24, is the latest in a series of global meetings trying to reach agreement on how to control climate change. It came just a few weeks after an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] report warning that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments are responding. The IPCC report, Global Warming of 1.5° C  said the world’s climate will reach a dangerous 1.5 degrees Celsius increase from pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, bringing extreme drought, huge wildfires, great floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people. As a sign of how contentious climate change has become, four oil-producing countries, the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, blocked the inclusion of the IPCC findings in the official text from Katowice.

So, the global temperature keeps rising, the ice sheets are melting, the climate in becoming more extreme and unpredictable. Countries have started to react, but the pollution cuts promised are nowhere near enough. Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach “net zero” around 2050 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C. Instead, emissions are rising. We are now on a track to see global warming reach 3C by the end of this century, taking us into uncharted and dangerous territory. According to the IPCC, lowering emissions to a safe level, while technically possible, would require widespread changes in energy,industry, buildings, transportation and cities, the report says. It would mean a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels.

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