Forget COP, forget Doha, forget the UN and Qatar — it’s the global emissions that matter.
And it’s the carbon soot and smoke that matters.
Because the latest figures from the Global Carbon Project, released this week, show that global emissions have been growing at an average of 3 per cent each year since 2000. We are on course to emit 35.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide this year just from burning fossil fuels and producing cement. This represents a 58% increase from 1990 levels, and it doesn’t even include another 3 billion tonnes or so of CO2 emissions from deforestation and other changes in land use throughout the world.
In the United Nations Climate Change summit in Doha, inaction breeds despair as reports, following study, after science study, painted a grim picture of our future, and a Dystopian world, stemming from Carbon pollution, global warming and sea levels rising faster and faster…
The worst news, however, is that far from cutting our emissions, we are pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than ever. And that this process is accelerated….
China, is now the biggest emitter and responsible for most of the CO2 emissions growth in the atmosphere. CARBON IS THE KEY CULPRIT HERE because the other greenhouse gases are found in miniscule amounts by comparison.
“It’s a slow tsunami,” says the head of the Global Carbon Project, Pep Canadell of Australia’s national science institute CSIRO in Canberra. China’s and the US as well as Europe’s emissions are expected to grow until at least 2030. Even if they do peak by then, the emissions of other developing nations, particularly India with its 1.2 billion people, may continue to climb.
The World Resources Institute reported last month that there are plans to build 1200 new coal-fired stations globally, most in India and China.
So there is little prospect of global emissions peaking around 2020 – which is what is needed to stop the world warming more than 2 °C. Limiting warming to 2 °C is still possible, but after decades of inaction, it would now take an unprecedented global effort to achieve it. “If this is not forthcoming, 2 °C is beyond our grasp and even 4 °C begins to look challenging,” says Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich, UK.
Because each year you don’t do anything, the challenge grows far greater.
Some countries have pledged to cut their emissions, but even if all existing pledges were kept – which seems unlikely - there is still a one in five chance that the world could warm by over 4° Celsius, a report commissioned by the World Bank warned last month. If we carry on as we are, temperatures could rise more than 4° Celsius well before 2050, and more than 8° Celsius before 2100.
This is not even the worse-case scenario. Some studies suggest that the rise in temperature will be 4° Celsius by the 2070s. The simulations on which these projections are based do not include the possibility of vast amounts of carbon being released from melting permafrost and undersea hydrates. Last week, reports from NASA, from the EP and from the UN warned that permafrost is already melting faster than ever and that there could be extensive losses by 2050.
At the moment, however, we are pumping such vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere that even massive releases of carbon from natural sources will not make much of a difference. Estimates suggest they will lead to a certain amount of extra warming as an add on to human emissions.
Instead, the real threat is more subtle. The real threat is that the longer we delay agreements on global CO2 emission cuts, the less difference they will make.
And this is what the public doesn’t understand and the leaders don’t want to know. Because by the time our emissions start to fall, the land and oceans won’t be able to take in any more carbon and instead will begin releasing it, causing an accelerated global warming that is unstoppable and self reinforcing.
Meanwhile, the consequences of the 0.8° Celsius warming that has already happened since industrial times are becoming scarily felt.
Environmental Parliament studies that were released last week confirmed that ice in Greenland and Antarctica is melting much faster than predicted.
Global sea level has already risen by about 30 centimetres, and in many cases 50 cm, largely because of the expansion of oceanic water as it warms up and of the glaciers melting and tipping into the sea…
This has increased the damage caused by super storms such as that of Sandy’s surges taking over Manhattan … and making New York City a submarine, but it has also increased the low lands inundation by the typhoons and the “regular” monsoon that has become unhinged as it pummels Bangladesh, India, and SE Asia with tremendous unregularity and ferocity.