World on ‘thin ice’ as UN climate report gives stark warning
Humanity still has a chance, close to the last, to prevent the worst of climate change’s future harms, a top United Nations panel of scientists said Monday.
But doing so requires quickly slashing nearly two-thirds of carbon pollution by 2035, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said. The United Nations chief said it more bluntly, calling for an end to new fossil fuel exploration and for rich countries to quit coal, oil and gas by 2040.
“Humanity is on thin ice — and that ice is melting fast,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “Our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.”
Stepping up his pleas for action on fossil fuels, Guterres called for rich countries to accelerate their target for achieving net zero emissions to as early as 2040, and developing nations to aim for 2050 — about a decade earlier than most current targets. He also called for them to stop using coal by 2030 and 2040, respectively, and ensure carbon-free electricity generation in the developed world by 2035, meaning no gas-fired power plants either.
That date is key because nations soon have to come up with goals for pollution reduction by 2035, according to the Paris climate agreement. After contentious debate, the U.N. science report approved Sunday concluded that to stay under the warming limit set in Paris the world needs to cut 60% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, compared with 2019, adding a new target not previously mentioned in six previous reports issued since 2018.
“The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts for thousands of years,” the report said, calling climate change “a threat to human well-being and planetary health.”
“We are not on the right track but it’s not too late,” said report co-author and water scientist Aditi Mukherji. “Our intention is really a message of hope, and not that of doomsday.’’
With the world only a few tenths of a degree away from the globally accepted goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, scientists stressed a sense of urgency. The goal was adopted as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement and the world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius.
This is likely the last warning the Nobel Peace Prize-winning collection of scientists will be able to make about the 1.5 mark because their next set of reports may well come after Earth has either passed the mark or is locked into exceeding it soon, several scientists, including report authors, told The Associated Press.
After 1.5 degrees “the risks are starting to pile on,” said report co-author Francis X. Johnson, a climate, land and policy scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute. The report mentions “tipping points” around that temperature of species extinction, including coral reefs, irreversible melting of ice sheets and sea level rise of several meters.
“1.5 is a critical critical limit, particularly for small islands and mountain (communities) which depend on glaciers,” said Mukherji.
“The window is closing if emissions are not reduced as quickly as possible,” Johnson said in an interview. “Scientists are rather alarmed.”
Many scientists, including at least three co-authors, said hitting 1.5 degrees is inevitable.
“We are pretty much locked into 1.5,” said report co-author Malte Meinshausen, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. “There’s very little way we will be able to avoid crossing 1.5 C sometime in the 2030s ” but the big issue is whether the temperature keeps rising from there or stabilizes.
Guterres insisted “the 1.5-degree limit is achievable.” Science panel chief Hoesung Lee said so far the world is far off course.
If current consumption and production patterns continue, Lee said, “the global average 1.5 degrees temperature increase will be seen sometime in this decade.”
Scientists emphasize that the world or humanity won’t end suddenly if Earth passes the 1.5 degree mark. Mukherji said “it’s not as if it’s a cliff that we all fall off.” But an earlier IPCC report detailed how the harms — including even nastier extreme weather — are much worse beyond 1.5 degrees of warming.
“It is certainly prudent to be planning for a future that’s warmer than 1.5 degrees,” said IPCC report review editor Steven Rose, an economist at the Electric Power Research Institute in the United States.
If the world continues to use all the fossil fuel-powered infrastructure either existing now or proposed, Earth will warm at least 2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, the report said.
Because the report is based on data from a few years ago, the calculations about fossil fuel projects already in the pipeline do not include the increase in coal and natural gas use after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It comes a week after the Biden Administration in the United States approved the huge Willow oil-drilling project in Alaska, which could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day.
After rough start, UN plastic treaty talks end with mandate for first draft
After a rocky start to a week of negotiations, around 170 countries agreed to develop a first draft by November of what could become the first global treaty to curb plastic pollution by the end of next year.
Country delegations, NGOs and industry representatives gathered in Paris this week for the second round of UN talks toward a legally binding pact to halt the explosion of plastic waste, which is projected to almost triple by 2060, with around half ending up in landfill and less than a fifth recycled, according to a 2022 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report.
Though the first half of the five-day negotiations was spent arguing over procedural issues, delegations split into two groups to discuss the range of control measures that can be taken to stop plastic pollution as well as whether countries should develop national plans or set global targets to tackle the problem, Reuters reported.
By the session’s close on Friday, countries agreed to prepare a “zero draft” text of what would become a legally binding plastics treaty and to work between negotiation sessions on key questions such as the scope and principles of the future treaty.
The “zero draft” text would reflect options from the wide-ranging positions of different countries by the start of the next round of talks to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, in November.
“My appeal to you at the beginning of this session was that you make Paris count. You have done so by providing us collectively with a mandate for a zero draft and intersessional work,” said Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on Plastic Pollution at the closing plenary.
The start of negotiations was bogged down by more than two days focused on the rules of procedure for the talks.
Saudi Arabia, Russia and China led objections to the treaty decisions being adopted by a majority vote rather than a consensus. A consensus would give one or a few countries the ability to block adoption.
Marian Ledesma, a campaigner with Greenpeace Philippines, told Reuters that if the INC process enables adoption by consensus instead of majority voting, it “will block a lot of important provisions.”
“Voting allows for as many states as possible to be able to support the treaty and allow us to move forward,” she said.
The issue has not yet been fully resolved and will come up at the next round of talks.
Death toll climbs as rain continues across parts of Afghanistan
The Ministry of Natural Disaster Management said on Tuesday that at least 24 people have died and 13 others have been injured in recent rains in 13 provinces of the country in the past 10 days.
Shafiullah Rahimi, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Natural Disasters, says that in the past 24 hours, three people died and one person was injured in heavy rain in Paktia, Paktika, Maidan Wardak and Khost provinces respectively.
In addition, 31 houses were either damaged or completely destroyed in the rain.
On Monday the Meteorological Department issued a warning of heavy rain and possible flash floods in 20 provinces over two days – including Tuesday.
“At least 24 people have died, 13 people have been injured and 120 houses have been completely destroyed in 13 provinces of the country in nearly ten days, and more than 3,000 acres of agricultural land and gardens have been destroyed,” said Rahimi.
He also said the Ministry of Natural Disaster Management in cooperation with United Nations organizations and NGOs has been able to distribute food and non-food items and cash aid to nearly 15,000 families in the past ten days. He also said the process is still underway.
Pacific islands, in spotlight, to push climate change in South Korea summit
Pacific island leaders will meet South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul on Monday, their third summit in a week with a large economy as the region seeks stronger action on climate change as it becomes a focus of geopolitical power attention.
The Pacific islands span 40 million square kilometers of ocean between the United States and Asia, and Western allies have moved to boost their engagement amid concerns over China’s security ambitions for the strategic waters and economic leverage among the small island states, Reuters reported.
Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles will attend the first Korea-Pacific Islands Summit, his office said on Saturday, adding it would show cooperation between the 18 members of the Pacific Island Forum and South Korea for a secure region.
“Australia welcomes Korea’s interest in deepening ties with the Pacific, and looks forward to building on our foundation of shared values to promote our mutual interest in a prosperous and resilient Pacific,” he said in a statement.
South Korea is Australia’s third-largest export market, with trade dominated by exports of gas and coal. Marles will also hold a bilateral meeting with Korean Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup.
Australia and New Zealand are the largest members of the forum, a bloc of mostly small island countries at risk from rising sea levels caused by climate change and reliant on aid from development partners.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged more trade and development assistance in a summit with a dozen Pacific island leaders in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Monday. The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed a defense agreement with PNG after a Pacific summit there on the same day.
The back-to-back meetings with major economies were a “massive boost for recognition of our priorities”, said Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna in a statement.
The island states, which are seeking greater funding for climate change mitigation, have taken a collective approach to dealing with major powers.
The Pacific islands has the world’s largest tuna fishery, where South Korea’s long distance fleet has been fishing since 1958, catching 255,226 tonnes in 2021 under license schemes controlled by the forum members.
France, which has Pacific overseas territories, will also join the Seoul meeting.
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