There’s been a lot of bloviating coming out of Glasgow (or is it Edinburgh? Nobody knows. Aren’t they the same thing?) recently, as the world’s decision makers descended upon the Scottish city to debate how best to tackle the greatest existential threat that our species has ever faced.
And alongside those fossil fuel execs there were also some politicians too (ba-dum-tshh!).
The COP26 climate change conference is due to end this Friday. It was, in theory, one of the most important meetings to have ever taken place. If the world’s leaders had decided upon and put into action a concrete plan to reduce emissions in line with keeping global heating as close as possible to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels then it could have been a summit to hail and to put into the history books.
But that would have required more than some are willing to put up. It would have meant the rich countries of the global North admitting their historic role in constructing a world-spanning system of violent, extractive capitalism. It would have entailed a frank acknowledgement that that same system that brought us to the brink of catastrophe will not be the same system that saves us from the worst of the scarcely imaginable crises to come. It would have led to a good faith, anti-profit movement that would have seen the global North undergo a programme of technology sharing and orientation toward Indigenous-led sustainable land relationships.
Obviously, that kind of sh*t’s just not allowed to happen. I hate the phrase ‘perfect is the enemy of good’. It’s so often just used to provide a smoke screen for complicity and inaction. With climate change, more so than with other things, there is a hint of truth to it, as every decimal degree heat rise we can prevent translates directly to a massive reduction in global harm. Nevertheless, despite the optimistic COP26 reports appearing in the press following all manner of self-congratulatory announcements from the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the world, we have now been issued a sobering rejoinder by the respected climate analysis coalition, Climate Action Tracker (CAT). What has their verdict been on the outcomes of COP26 thus far?
‘Not fuc*ing good enough’, basically.
While forecasts and press releases have hinted that the commitments made at COP26 could keep us to 1.8C or 1.9C of heating—already massively disastrous for huge swathes of the world’s most vulnerable communities—CAT analysis has shown that, when combining the lofty rhetoric of long term aspirations with the more actionable short term goals, the world is actually on track for a temperature rise of 2.4C by the end of the century.
This is beyond disastrous. The impacts of climate change ratchet up dramatically for every decimal degree rise. The Paris agreement warned that we would need to stay well below 2C if we were to avert the worst of the catastrophes to come. At 1.5C, major damage to the Earth’s climate will already be irreversible. At 2.4C, the storms, floods, droughts, famines, heatwaves, wildfires, ocean acidification, and mass flora and fauna die-offs reach a fever pitch that is truly hard for us to picture.
According to a report in The Guardian:
Bill Hare, the chief executive of Climate Analytics, one of the organisations behind CAT, told the Guardian: “We are concerned that some countries are trying to portray [Cop26] as if the 1.5C limit is nearly in the bag. But it’s not, it’s very far from it, and they are downplaying the need to get short-term targets for 2030 in line with 1.5C.”
The analysts also found a chasm between what countries have said they will do on greenhouse gas emissions and their plans in reality. If current policies and measures are taken into account, rather than just goals, heating would rise to 2.7C, based on the CAT analysis.
The report continues:
Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, said: “This new calculation is like a telescope trained on an asteroid heading for Earth. It’s a devastating report. We have until the weekend to turn this thing around. That means countries agreeing how they’re going come back next year and every year after that until the gap to 1.5C is closed. The ministers shouldn’t leave this city until they’ve nailed that.”
As the kids say: It’s socialism or climate cataclysm.
Header picture taken from Tuvalu’s foreign minister’s speech to the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow:
Header Image Source: YouTube