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Take heart at what’s unfolded at COP26 in Glasgow – the world can still hold global heating to 1.5℃
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Take heart at what’s unfolded at COP26 in Glasgow – the world can still hold global heating to 1.5℃

group of people bumping fists


Greta Thunberg already declared the COP26 climate conference. a failure. The Swedish activist is correct in important aspects.

The commitments made at the conference are insufficient to hold global heating to 1.5℃ this century. Leading coal users and producers including AustraliaA proposal to end coal-fired electricity generation by 2030 was rejected by the Australian government. The Australian government went even further. refused to commit to reducing methane emissions – a position endorsedBy the Labor opposition.

The rapid economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an equally rapid recovery in demandFor all forms of energy, including resulting in spikesThe prices of coal, oil, and gas.

However, the Glasgow conference’s outcomes look much better when viewed over a longer period.

Participants at the Copenhagen climate summit 2009 agreed to aim at holding global heating below 2℃ this century, but did not deliver policy commitments to achieve this goal. The most plausible scenarios at the time gave an estimated heating of around 3℃.

The worst-case scenario, commonly described as “business as usual”, implied a catastrophic increase of up to 6℃Global temperatures will rise by 2100. All of this led to the Copenhagen talks being deemed a remarkable event. failure.

But heading into the final days of the Glasgow summit, the goal of limiting heating below 2℃ looks attainable, and 1.5℃ is still possible. Despite the disappointments of the decade since Copenhagen, there is still hope.

group of people bumping fists
Former US president Barack Obama greets people at COP26 – where negotiators are seeking global progress on climate action.

1.5℃ to stay alive

Each nation made its commitments ahead of COP26 to ensure the world was on track 2.7℃ warmingThis century.

However, the talks have produced new binding commitments in the ten days that have elapsed so far. One analysis suggests that the commitments have set the world on a path to success. 2.4℃ warming. This assessment is based a combination of legally binding net-zero commitments and current climate pledges from each country.

When we account for additional pledges announced – but not yet formalised – by the G20 countries, the projected temperature rise this century lowers to to 2.1℃According to Climate Action Tracker analysis released in September, it was a very good result.

So that’s the good news. These optimistic trajectories assume that all pledges have been fully implemented.

It has become clear, however, that even 2℃ of global heating would be environmentally disastrous.

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Even under the current 1.1℃ of warmingEarth has suffered severe impacts since the onset of large-scale greenhouse gas emission. These include coral bleaching, devastating bushfires and extreme heatwaves that have resulted in thousands of deaths. As the Earth heats further, such events will become more frequent and more intense.

This underscores the vital importance of urgently pursuing the 1.5℃ goal. It is literally a matter for life and death for both vulnerable people and natural ecosystems.

The idea of a target of 1.5℃, supported by many developing countries, was rejectedMajor countries at the Copenhagen conference ruled out of control

The Paris conference in 2015 marked an important, but still partial move towards the 1.5℃ goal. There were nations agreed on a goal to hold global average temperature rise to well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5℃.

We’re yet to see the final communique from Glasgow, and every word in it will doubtless be subject to lengthy negotiation. But it’s almost certain to include a strengthening of the language of the Paris Agreement, hopefully with a formal commitment that warming will be held to 1.5℃.

flames rise off trees into sky
Australia has already suffered the brunt from climate-related disasters, such as bushfires.
Dan Himbrechts/AAP

There is reason to be optimistic

As with previous conferences, policy commitments at Glasgow will be insufficient to reach the 1.5℃ target. The commitment to reduce methane emissions at this stage is merely an aspiration without any concrete policies attached.

And as analysisOn Tuesday, it was revealed that real-world action is far behind the net-zero promises. If that “snail’s pace” continues, a temperature rise of 2These are the basics.4℃, or even 2.7℃, remains a distinct possibility.

But the technologies and policies needed to hold warming to 1.5℃ are now available to us. They can be implemented without causing poverty or reducing living standards in wealthy countries.

These options are a result of both technological advancement and the success achieved by policies around the globe, including emission trading schemes and mandates for renewable energy.

In the early 2000s, advances in wind and solar technology were made possible largely thanks to government support. This eventually led to carbon-free electricity becoming more affordable. belownew coal-fired or gas-fired plants.

wind turbines and solar panels
The technology to address the climate crises is already in place.

The largest impact was felt in Europe, where emissions trading and carbon prices drove a rapid transition. The EU has had a clear pathTo achieve net-zero emissions by 2050

The first requirement is to accelerate the transition towards carbon-free electricity. This requires rapid expansion of solar and wind energy, and the replacement of petrol- and diesel-powered cars with electric alternatives.

These changes would result in a one-off expense in scrapping existing power plant and vehicles before they reach their operational life. However, it would reduce transport and energy costs. long run.

Other important steps have already begun. These include reducing methane emissions and adopting carbon-free manufacturing methods for steel, cement, or other industrial products. It will be crucial to use hydrogen from water through electrolysis.

These outcomes cannot be guaranteed. The leading national emitters – China, India and the United States – have all been inconsistent in their pursuit of stabilising Earth’s climate.

China is currently waveringEconomic difficulties are increasing. Donald Trump, the US President, has not ruled out a bid for the presidency in 2024. If successful, it would almost certainly reverse any progress.

Global action on climate change is still not nearly enough, but we’re undeniably moving in the right direction. Earth could finally move towards a stable climate by the time of the next major conference on climate change, which is likely to be in 2026.

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