While world leaders fail to act on the climate crisis, scientists admit that they are stunned by the latest data showing that there is no guarantee that greenhouse gases will stop rising by 2025.
Another month of smashed temperature records has left scientists searching for words with which to describe what is happening. “Gobsmackingly bananas” was the phrase alighted on by Zeke Hausfather of the Berkeley Earth climate data project. This was the hottest September on record, following the hottest August and the hottest July. It beat the previous September record by 0.5C, the largest jump in temperature ever seen.
In the UK, where the summer was wet and many people have enjoyed unseasonably warm early autumn days, the disruption has not been anything like as destructive as elsewhere. But floods, fires and exceptionally high temperatures are becoming more and more frequent – with the overflow of Lhonak Lake in India, and the wildfires and baking heat in Tenerife among the latest emergencies.
The countdown to the latest round of UN climate talks, which start in Dubai in late November, has begun. On Wednesday, Pope Francis issued an update to his 2015 encyclical – a document he addressed to “every person living” – warning that “the world in which we live is collapsing” and calling for “irresponsible” western lifestyles to change. More than 80 countries are pushing for a phaseout of fossil fuels to be on the Cop28 agenda. But leaders of the biggest-emitting countries, including Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, were absent from a summit convened by António Guterres, the UN secretary general, in New York last month.
As Mr Guterres has warned, oil companies and states are lobbying hard against attempts to close down their businesses. Saudi Arabia’s huge recent investment in football is part of a strategy aimed at increasing its influence and muting opponents. Last year, Saudi Aramco, which is largely state-owned, made a profit of $161bn (£134bn) – the biggest ever recorded by an oil and gas firm.
The actions of the oil companies and petrostates are one thing. But so far, the actions of governments across the rich world have failed to match their words on net zero. Even now, as scientists admit that they are stunned by the latest data, there is no guarantee that greenhouse gases will stop rising by 2025, as experts believe they must if there is to be any chance of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C.
Under Rishi Sunak, the UK’s ambitions have slipped. Last month, he watered down commitments on phasing out petrol cars and gas boilers, while ministers at his party’s conference used inflammatory rhetoric to play up public fears that decarbonisation is unaffordable. But other governments too are showing a disturbing lack of engagement. With a recent proposal for a windfall tax on the oil and gas revenues of countries with the largest deposits, the UK’s former prime minister, Gordon Brown, went further than the current leaders of any big western states have done recently. No wonder that the governments of some of the poorest countries, which are most threatened by global heating and have contributed least to the problem, are angry.
As Pope Francis said, “we can keep hoping”. The high temperatures are frightening, but could be used by responsible politicians to build the momentum that is needed for an accelerated green transition.
Original source: https://www.theguardian.com