As the planet keeps on heating up, any global temperature beyond a warming of 2°C in coming decades would be catastrophic for life on Earth as we’ve known it. The trouble is that we are on course to a warming of as much as 3°C by century’s end, according to the United Nations.
“[D]espite a brief dip in carbon dioxide emissions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century – far beyond the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing 1.5°C,” the Un warns in its latest annual Emissions Gap Report.
“However, a low-carbon pandemic recovery could cut 25 per cent off the greenhouse emissions expected in 2030, based on policies in place before COVID-19,” it adds. “Such a recovery would far outstrip savings foreseen with the implementation of unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, and put the world close to the 2°C pathway.”
Over the past two centuries since industrialization was first kicked into high gear global temperatures have risen by around 1°C. Even such a relatively minor increase has been having a marked environmental impact with more frequent forest fires, increased ocean acidification and other natural phenomena that place entire ecosystems at risk, experts say.
Further warming could deal cataclysmic harm around much of the planet. Encouragingly, however, nationwide lockdowns around the planet this year because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have shown us a way forward. This year year we saw a reduction of around 7% in emissions worldwide owing to reduced economic activities such as less travel and industrial activity during months-long lockdowns.
Such lockdowns are temporary measures, though, and by next year our emissions are likely to shoot up again. Yet, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the rate of emission reductions we experienced in 2020 should be a permanent feature of life if we are to ensure that planetary warming stays within manageable limits.
Specifically, global emissions should fall 7.6% each year until 2030 to keep warming at around 1.5°C by 2100. For that to happen, our dependence on fossil fuels like oil and coal must be reduced by 6% annually, UNEP says.
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