Contributed by Jim Hayes
A new Cop 28 meeting will begin in the United Arab Emirates next week. This is the gathering of nations to talk about dealing with climate change. No ne really expects much to come out of this event. Previous Cop gatherings have had their speeches, but almost nothing has come out of them in terms of applied action. There is little reason to believe it will be any different this time.
When last year’s Cop meeting took place, it was admitted that the world was unavoidably heading towards at least a 1.5 degrees centigrade temperature rise. Extreme weather events last year broke past records. This year, many of those records were broken again.
Behind the promises, all they could come up with was to provide public money to induce an investor led solution. In other words, they said rely on the market to fix the climate crisis. Nothing happened.
The scale of floods and droughts, and that they are taking place where they have not occurred before. Sea ice is at record lows and the oceans are getting warmer. All this should frighten everyone. The new scientific consensus is that we have now reached a 2.4 degree rise and set for it to rise to 3 degrees. A driver of this revised prediction is the small slowing of the Atlantic Conveyer.
The Atlantic Conveyer is critical to, and part of the bigger oceanic conveyor belt determines the currents that creates the world’s climate, is slowing down, increasing sea temperatures, and inducing increasingly severe weather events.
A temperature rise of this magnitude will mean far more extreme weather events.
The UN Environment Programme (Unep) report says that if promises made so far are honoured, it will shave just 0.1 of the 3 degrees. This is a joke. The report also says that if developing countries are helped to make their pledged cuts, the rise in temperature will still be 2.5 degrees. This till isn’t enough to avoid a catastrophe.
This will mean mass extinction. Part of it will be an escalating failure of food production and increasing scarcity of water. This is already a reality in some parts of the world, and it will spread like a cancer.
Unep’s report was supported by the Unite Nations Climate Change report of 14 November 2023, which called for a 43 percent cut to limit warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade.
Together with the physical damage of extreme weather events, rising food and water insecurity will destroy the economy and bring social chaos. Poverty, hunger, and war will kill millions.
To avoid this scenario and achieving the lower level of warming, the world must get on track and cut at least 22 billion tons of carbon emissions by 2030.
The only major carbon producer decreasing its footprint is China, although it still has a long way to go. Tep others are making little or no progress. If this is tuned around, it is still possible to limit global warming to around 1.5 degrees, according to the available scientific evidence.
This means the political will to make the change. Here is where it gets tricky. The fossil fuel industry is rich and powerful. It plans to expand and presses politicians into its service. The industry continues to be bankrolled and have barriers removed by governments. Energy production and economies remain firmly tied to carbon use.
According to Oxfam, 81 billionaires have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of humanity. This puts the inequality of power into perspective. They are part of the 1 percent of humanity, of which those extracting their wealth from fossil fuels is an important part. They are the force preventing serious action to cut carbon emissions. They do this because they have an interest in keeping things just the way they are.
Change involves removing the power of the fossil fuel industry over the making of political decisions. The world remains a long way from this. This is the reason why the G20 countries producing 80 percent of carbon emissions can’t come up with a plan where they share the responsibility of ensuring zero targets as soon as possible.
As a major exporter of fossil fuel, Australia makes a much bigger footprint than is often assumed. Australia is the world’s biggest per capita producer of carbon. Consequently, this carries a responsibility to lead by example.
Australia is also more vulnerable than many other nations to the impact of climate change.
Although more than 2 years old, the video below is still highly relevant.
The risks to Australia of a 3°C warmer world
Video from the Australian Academy of Science
No luck here so far in turning this around. The fossil fuel industry has an expectably strong grip on our political decision-making process. Inaction behind the promises is still the order of the day.
The only chance is to make enough noise to expose those holding back progress and creating the social force that will make all the difference.