Our planet is in undeniable crisis and desperately needs COP27 to succeed – Wire Science

A view of the COP27 sign on the road to the conference area in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, October 20, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Sayed Shisha


  • The author, a climate scientist, believes that world leaders should have three things on top of their minds before the conference.
  • First, we are about to cross five major climate tipping points. Exceeding them will lock up the Earth in continued damage to the climate even if all emissions stop.
  • Second, some countries are succeeding in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by switching to renewable energy. But globally, this is not happening fast enough.
  • Third, we can’t – as climate activist Greta Thunberg said – have more “blah, blah, blah” world leaders at COP27. We need concrete action.

World leaders and climate experts gather for pivotal talks on climate change for the United Nations in Egypt. Known as COP27, the conference aims to put Earth on a path of net zero emissions and keep global warming well below 2°C this century.

The world must remove carbon quickly to avoid the most serious damage from climate change. World leaders know this. But this knowledge must urgently be transformed into concrete commitments and plans.

If humanity continues on its current path, we will leave a hotter and deadlier world to today’s children and all generations to come.

Earth desperately needs COP27 to succeed. I am a climate scientist and I believe that world leaders should be their top priority at the conference.

1. Our planet is in an undeniable crisis

So far, the Earth has warmed by just over 1°C compared to pre-industrial levels, which means we’ve already damaged the climate system. Our greenhouse gas emissions are already causing sea levels to rise, sea ice shrinking, and oceans becoming more acidic.

The extreme events of recent years – particularly heat waves – have climate change fingerprints everywhere. Record temperatures in western North America in 2021 saw massive wildfires and strained infrastructure. And earlier this year, temperatures in the UK reached a deadly 40C for the first time ever.

The ocean has also suffered a series of marine heat waves that have bleached coral reefs and reduced the diversity of the species they host. Heat waves will only get worse as we continue to warm the planet.

Frighteningly, we risk pushing the climate into a dangerous new order with even worse consequences. Research from September found that we are on the cusp of past five major climate tipping points, such as the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet.

Exceeding these points will trap the planet in continued damage to the climate, even if all greenhouse gas emissions stop.

Human health is also at stake. Research conducted last month revealed that the climate crisis is undermining public health through, for example, the spread of infectious diseases, air pollution and food shortages.

Among its worrying findings, heat-related deaths in children under one year of age, and adults over 65, increased by 68% in 2017-2021, compared to 2000-2004.

Future generations cannot afford our reluctance to act to reduce emissions.

2. Emission reduction is too slow

Some countries, particularly in Europe, are succeeding in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by switching to renewable energy.

But globally, this is not happening fast enough. A United Nations report this week found that if countries meet their 2030 climate action goals, global warming will remain around 2.5 degrees Celsius this century – exceeding the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Such warming would be disastrous, especially in poorer parts of the world that have not contributed much to global emissions.

For decades, the world has talked about reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But annual global emissions have risen by more than 50% in my lifetime, and since the first COP in 1992. The United Nations warns that there is still a “credible path” to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Until we reach near net zero emissions, the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will rise and the planet will get warmer. At the current rate, we are heating the planet by about 0.2°C every decade.

3. Procrastination must end

With so many challenges facing the world, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the cost of living crisis, it can be tempting to view climate change as a problem that can wait. This would be a bad idea

Climate change will only get worse. Each year of delay makes it extremely difficult to prevent the most dangerous climate predictions from becoming a reality.

Only the concerted efforts of all nations will avoid the destruction of our most sensitive ecosystems, such as coral reefs. We must do everything we can to stop this by moving away from fossil fuels. Any new development of fossil fuels makes the problem worse and will cost humanity and the environment much more in the future.

However, last week the International Energy Agency predicted that net income of oil and gas producers would double in 2022 “to an unprecedented $4 trillion”, representing $2 trillion.

We can’t, as climate activist Greta Thunberg said, have more “blah, blah, blah” world leaders at COP27. We need concrete actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What now?

COP27 should lead to a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, including no new fossil fuel developments, and more support for countries dealing with the biggest impacts of climate change. we Should Be on a reliable path to net zero global emissions over the next few decades.

The lack of progress in previous global climate talks means that I am not optimistic that COP27 will achieve what is needed. But I hope that world leaders will prove me wrong and not let their nations down.Conversation

Andrew King is a senior lecturer in climate sciences at the University of Melbourne.

This article has been republished from Conversation.

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