By Sophie Squire
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System’s fossil fuel addiction is leading us to ‘uncharted territory of destruction’

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A new climate report has revealed that net-zero pledges made by world leaders are "insufficient" to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement
Issue 2823
climate activists blockade a road holding orange just stop oil banners

Around 50 Just Stop Oil supporters protest outside the Kingsbury Oil Terminal in Warwickshire (Picture: Twitter/Just Stop Oil)

Failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels will lead to an “uncharted territory of destruction” according to a new bleak report. 

It comes from several environmental organisations including the World Meteorological Organisation, the Met Office, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environmental Programme. 

It concludes, “We are heading in the wrong direction” and it confirms that fossil fuel emissions are now above pre-pandemic levels. 

The report also predicts that there is a 48 percent chance that in the next five years the temperature of at least one of those years will be 1.5 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels. 

There will also be a 93 percent chance at least one year between 2022 and 2026 will be warmer than the warmest year on record. Ice in the Antarctic reached its lowest or second lowest levels on record. 

It writes, “Major tipping points include changes in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, the melting of polar ice sheets, the migration of large-scale weather and climate patterns, drying of the Amazon rainforest, or disruptions of major weather systems, such as the monsoon. 

“The combined effects of higher temperatures and humidity during hot spells in some regions could reach dangerous levels in the next few decades, which could lead to physiological tipping points or thresholds beyond which outdoor human labour is no longer possible without technical assistance.” 

The pledges by world leaders are also “insufficient” to achieve the promises made at the  Paris Agreement in 2015 according to the report. 

It found that “New national mitigation pledges for 2030, as of 4 November 2021, show some progress toward lowering greenhouse emissions, but their combined effect on global emissions is insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

“The ambition of these new pledges needs to be four times higher to get on track to limit warming to two degrees and seven times higher to get on track to 1.5 degrees. 

Worryingly, the report found that there is a very strong risk that current policies will lead to an average of 2.8 degrees of warming in the course of the 21st century. 

It also says that even if there is a “full implementation of all net-zero pledges” the world will warm by around 2.1 degrees. So the report agrees that even if those in power keep their net-zero promises, temperatures still won’t be kept under 1.5 degrees.

The report highlights the devastating impact that extreme weather caused by climate change will have on the world’s poorest, especially in cities. The recent floods in Pakistan are just one example of the damage that is taking place now, not at some far-off point in the future.

After the release of the report the UN Secretary-General António Guterres concluded, “There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity’s fossil fuel addiction. This year’s United in Science report shows climate impacts heading into uncharted territory of destruction. 

“Yet each year we double-down on this fossil fuel addiction, even as the symptoms get rapidly worse.” 

The report’s dire warnings will be nodded at by politicians and corporations. But they will then continue essentially in the same “business as usual” way as at present.

That’s why continuing and accelerating action over climate change is so important. Climate group Just Stop Oil will begin its occupation of Westminster on 1 October.

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