26 October 2021   2 comments

The United Nations has released its annual “Emissions Gap Report” which updates the world on how well member states have adhered to the reduction of greenhouse gases promised in the Paris Agreement. The report is issued on the eve of the COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) conference scheduled for Glasgow, Scotland. The 2021 report does not mince any words:

“The report shows that new or updated NDCs [nationally determined contributions] and announced pledges for 2030 have only limited impact on global emissions and the emissions gap in 2030, reducing projected 2030 emissions by only 7.5 per cent, compared with previous unconditional NDCs, whereas 30 per cent is needed to limit warming to 2°C and 55 per cent is needed for 1.5°C. If continued throughout this century, they would result in warming of 2.7°C. The achievement of the net-zero pledges that an increasing number of countries are committing to would improve the situation, limiting warming to about 2.2°C by the end of the century. However, the 2030 commitments do not yet set G20 members (accounting for close to 80 per cent of GHG emissions) on a clear path towards net zero.

“Moreover, G20 members as a group do not have policies in place to achieve even the NDCs, much less net zero.”

It is hard to read the report without thinking that the situation is increasingly untenable, particularly since the more stringent measures proposed by the Biden Administration to reduce greenhouse gases have been gutted. The Los Angeles Times reports:

“Biden has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 50% within a decade, a potentially insurmountable task without major changes in the way the country generates electricity.

“Democrats had hoped Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ program would serve as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to combat climate change at a time when their party controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.

“But as negotiations enter their most serious stage, the top climate provision is running into significant political opposition.

“The plan’s Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would encourage utilities to increase their use of renewable energy through a combination of payments and fines, is opposed by Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key Democrat from a coal- and gas-producing state. Last year, he reported about $492,000 in dividends on stock from his family’s coal brokerage business, according to his latest financial disclosure.

The Lancet recently published research conducted by an exceptionally substantial number of doctors and scientists entitled “The 2021 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: code red for a healthy future“. The effects of climate change on human health will be devastating:

“….populations in countries with low and medium levels of UN-defined human development index (HDI) have had the biggest increase in heat vulnerability during the past 30 years, with risks to their health further exacerbated by the low availability of cooling mechanisms and urban green space (indicators 1.1.1, 2.3.2, and 2.3.3).

“Agricultural workers in countries with low and medium HDI were among the worst affected by exposure to extreme temperatures, bearing almost half of the 295 billion potential work hours lost due to heat in 2020 (indicator 1.1.4). These lost work hours could have devastating economic consequences to these already vulnerable workers—data in this year’s report shows that the average potential earnings lost in countries in the low HDI group were equivalent to 4–8% of the national gross domestic product (indicator 4.1.3).

“Through these effects, rising average temperatures, and altered rainfall patterns, climate change is beginning to reverse years of progress in tackling the food and water insecurity that still affects the most underserved populations around the world, denying them an essential aspect of good health. During any given month in 2020, up to 19% of the global land surface was affected by extreme drought; a value that had not exceeded 13% between 1950 and 1999 (indicator 1.2.2). In parallel with drought, warm temperatures are affecting the yield potential of the world’s major staple crops—a 6·0% reduction for maize; 3·0% for winter wheat; 5·4% for soybean; and 1·8% for rice in 2020, relative to 1981–2010 (indicator 1.4.1)—exposing the rising risk of food insecurity.

“Adding to these health hazards, the changing environmental conditions are also increasing the suitability for the transmission of many water-borne, air-borne, food-borne, and vector-borne pathogens. Although socioeconomic development, public health interventions, and advances in medicine have reduced the global burden of infectious disease transmission, climate change could undermine eradication efforts.”

Inaction on climate change is a crime against humanity, and a crime that will devastate the poorer citizens of the world. That one US Senator, with a clear personal conflict of interest, can prevent effective action to avoid the catastrophe is a pathetic statement on the current politics in the United States. To be fair, however, there are few other countries that have behaved more responsibly. It will be interesting to see who writes the history on this era and what the conclusions will be.

Posted October 26, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “26 October 2021

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  1. Vinnie, I missed this back in October. I agree with your characterization of the current inability of our leaders to act effectively as a crime against humanity, but how is it to be prosecuted?


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